Indian Court Upholds Soft Drink Ban
Associated Press
August 25, 2006

COCHIN, India: The High Court in the southern Indian state of Kerala on Friday temporarily upheld a ban on production of soft drinks by the Indian subsidiaries of Coca Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc.

Kerala banned sale and production of Coke, Pepsi and other soft drinks after a New Delhi-based environment group said earlier this month that the products contain high levels of pesticides.

Coca Cola India and PepsiCo India -- both of which operate bottling plants in Kerala -- have challenged the ban in the state's High Court and on Friday, they sought the court's permission to continue production until judges deliver their verdict in the case.

But the court, while admitting the petition Friday, said that the prohibition will stand until it hears the case on Sept. 11.

While Kerala has imposed a total ban on the soft drinks, six other states have banned the beverages at schools, hospitals and government offices.

Coca Cola India and PepsiCo India issued separate statements saying the High Court has "posted the matter for final disposal on the first day after the court vacation."

"We are completely confident in the safety of our soft drinks in India because they are produced to the same level of purity, regarding pesticides, as the (European Union) criteria for bottled water," the PepsiCo statement said.

Coca Cola India issued a similar statement.

This is not the first time that Coca-Cola, based in Atlanta, and PepsiCo, based in Purchase, N.Y., have faced charges of pesticide content in their soft drinks in India.

The allegations first surfaced three years ago, when the Center for Science and Environment said its tests revealed PepsiCo and Coca-Cola drinks sold in India contained pesticides that were respectively 36 and 30 times higher than European Union safety standards.

At the time, the companies acknowledged that their sales had gone down for several months, until the controversy slowly faded from public memory.

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