Pesticides Issue in India Goes Beyond Cola Companies
Times Now TV
August 11, 2006

The pesti-cola imbroglio may snowball into a larger controversy engulfing the entire branded beverage market.

Documents available with ET show that FMCG giants like HLL, Nestle and alcoholic beverage major United Breweries (UB) had participated in a meeting of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) Committee on finalising the standards for drinks and carbonated beverages.

The standard called IS-2346 has been under discussion for the past three years. It defines the quality norms which all carbonated drinks need to meet. The HLL, Nestle and UB representatives were part of the discussion as they also make carbonated drinks. Several associations of water packaging companies were also part of the discussion.

Interestingly, the minutes of the March 29 committee meeting to finalise draft standards for carbonated beverages show many dissenting voices, apart from the cola majors.

The HLL representative felt that the new draft standard should not be adopted as "it is not science-based." HLL also made the point that cola drinks are too complex in nature and, unlike water, it is not easy to check the pesticide residues.

IS-2346 defines not only the quality to be maintained pertaining to pesticides, but covers all aspects of manufacturing, packaging, ingredients, and labelling prohibitions.

For instance, carbonated drinks cannot claim medicinal affects like preventive, alleviative or curative in nature on the labels. It also recommends markings like "The beverage is not recommended for children, pregnant or lactating women and individuals sensitive to caffeine."

The representative of the Confederation of Indian Food Trade and Industry(CIFTI) said they were not against the formulation of a standard, but they would like the carry-over principle on raw products to be adopted while fixing the pesticide residues limit.

This clearly implies the entire organised food industry is anxious and want to shift the focus of new standards on inputs rather than finished products. This was demonstrated in the way the food industry representatives supported the cause of carbonated drinks in the March 29 meeting.

There is possibly a fear that after carbonated beverages, other products such as tea, coffee and juices could also be subjected to the same pesticide tests and trial by the NGOs.

The meeting of BIS was also attended by a ministry of food processing representative who opined that no action should be taken with respect to formulation of standards till the report of a high-powered committee under the chairmanship of the director general, Indian Council of Medical Research was finalised.

This view was dittoed by the ministry of health at the meeting. The high-powered committee is currently testing a large number of beverage products, including non-carbonated ones from non-Cola FMC companies. No time frame has been fixed for delivering the results of the pilot study.

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