News from the world on the dangers of pesticides in soft drinks - September 2003

PTI[ WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 06, 2003 01:56:28 PM ]

The Times of India Online
Printed from >India

Soft drinks not to be served in Parliament

NEW DELHI: It will literally be 'thanda' business for Coca Cola, Pepsi and 10 other soft drink brands in Parliament House now. Members would no longer be served these soft drinks.

       This was announced by E Ahmed, chairman of the Committee on Food Management, while participating in an impromptu debate in Lok Sabha on the reported findings of high level of pesticides and insecticides in these drinks by Delhi-based NGO Centre for Science and Environment.

       As the House was debating the matter, Ahmed of Muslim League said that as the chairman of the Committee he had ordered immediate stoppage of supply of these drinks to Parliament House.

© Bennett, Coleman and Co., Ltd. All rights reserved.

Published: August 6 2003 5:00 | Last Updated: August 6 2003 5:00

Financial Times

Coke and Pepsi deny toxin claims

By Edward Luce in New Delhi

       Coca Cola and PepsiCo, the US soft drinks companies, yesterday angrily denied allegations that their products manufactured in India contained toxin levels far above the norms permitted in the developed world.

       India's Centre for Science and Environment, a non-governmental body, yesterday announced it had conducted tests which showed that Pepsi's soft drink products had 36 times the level of pesticide residues permitted under European Union regulations, Coca Cola's 30 times.

       The CSE said in all 12 of the soft drinks it tested it found toxins including lindane, DDT, malathion and chlorpyrifos - pesticides that can contribute to cancer and a breakdown of the immune system. CSE said it had tested the same products in the US and found no such residues.

       "These companies take advantage of the fact that India has no regulations governing the quality of water that goes into soft drinks," said Sunita Narain of the CSE.

       At a joint press conference yesterday, the heads of Pepsi's and Coca Cola's India businesses - both wholly owned by their US parents - suggested the allegations were politically motivated.

       They also said they used the same quality control standards to test their products in India and the rest of the world. Pepsi and Coca Cola dominate the Indian soft drinks market, which is growing at between 12 and 14 per cent a year.

       "There is a desire to create panic and a deliberate scare," said Sanjiv Gupta, president of Coca Cola in India. "We challenge the methodology of these tests and ask for a peer review by the top five scientists in India."

       The CSE said it would welcome an independent review and that its own tests had been conducted according to the established protocol of the US Environmental Protection Agency (


[ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: 8/6/03 ]

Coke, Pepsi challenge India pesticide claim

From wire reports
       In a rare public display of unity, the Indian branches of Coca-Cola and Pepsico Tuesday challenged allegations by an environmental group that the soft drinks the companies sell in India contain dangerous levels of pesticide residue.

       The New Delhi-based research body Center for Science and Environment, or CSE, said Tuesday that levels of pesticides in brands sold by Pepsi India were 36 times higher than European Union standards.

       The average for all Coca-Cola products was 30 times higher than the guidelines used by the EU, said Sunita Narain, chief of the research body.

       CSE researchers found that 12 samples of Pepsi and Coke purchased in and around New Delhi contained extremely toxic pesticides and insecticides, including lindane, DDT and malathion.

       Sanjiv Gupta, president of Coca-Cola India, said at a press conference the company's products are "absolutely safe." Executives from Pepsi India were at the event.

       "What brings us together is our unwavering desire, belief, guarantee for quality and safety and applying the same standards across the world," Gupta said. "Our product is a world-class product and there is no question of any double standard."

       He added that any internationally accredited testing laboratory could check its products for compliance with stringent norms.

       Narain said the residue in the samples was apparently coming from groundwater polluted by pesticides.

       Pepsi India President Rajiv Bakshi said his company's products meet all global testing parameters for groundwater, including those followed in the U.S. and Europe.

       "We have tested everything possible, especially the groundwater source," said Bakshi. "What is shocking is that the trial by media this laboratory has resorted to is uncalled for."

       Both Bakshi and Gupta said their companies are considering "every option," including possible "legal recourse." Both declined to elaborate.

       CSE, which is a non-governmental research body financed by donations from individuals and grants, said in a report six months ago that most brands of bottled water sold in the country contained pesticide-residue levels as high as 104 times the globally accepted standard.

       The CSE acknowledged Tuesday that Indian soft drink brands also have high pesticide levels but said the focus was on Coke and Pepsi because they account for more than three-fourths of the bottled soft drinks consumed in India.

TUESDAY, AUGUST 05, 2003 10:20:12 PM ]

Coke, Pepsi fizz with pesticides, says study

NEW DELHI: In findings, hotly contested by global giants Coke and Pepsi, the Centre for Science and Environment picked up three bottles each of 12 soft drink brands from Delhi and found they contained a ''deadly pesticide cocktail'' which exceeded European norms by around 11 to 70 times. But these do not breach Indian laws which, said the CSE on Tuesday, are weak or non-existent.

       Rivals Coke and Pepsi, accused of ''double standards'', came together on Tuesday evening to challenge CSE's testing methods. They sought an independent scientific inquiry into the matter, while claiming that their products were safe and world-class. Our products are tested locally, in accredited labs, and internationally, said Coke and Pepsi
chiefs Sanjeev Gupta and Rajeev Bakshi respectively. Both companies claim that they operate within European and American norms with ''top-grade testing, top-grade products''. Coke and Pepsi claim they conduct testing at every stage regularly. Even the government's Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) conducts tests, they claim. ''We have a strong set of regulations internally and externally,'' said Gupta.

       CSE chief Sunita Narain said sample bottles picked up from the US showed no trace of pesticides. Both the US and Europe have set standards and rules under which citizens can drag companies to court. However, CSE found high individual pesticide residues in the Delhi samples: An average of 15 times higher for DDT and metabolites; 21
times higher for lindane; 42 times higher for chlorphyrifos; 87 times higher for malathion.

       The mix, claims CSE, saw Mirinda Lemon breaching the European norm by 70 times, Coke by 45 times, Pepsi by 37 times and Thums Up by 22 times. On the list, all allegedly breaching the norms, were Fanta, Mirinda Orange, Seven Up, Limca, Blue Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Diet Pepsi and Sprite. Prolonged intake of pesticides can lead to cancer, attack
the nervous system, decrease the sperm count and cause birth defects.

       Narain, aghast that ''global giants'' are not setting an example, came down heavily on the government's regulatory norms. ''This is worse than the bottled water case. At least mandatory certification is needed for this but there is nothing for this food industry. Here, there are no norms at all for an industry which is established, it is not a question of small players.''

       Rules on arsenic levels in soft drinks, charged Narain, allow 0.5 ppm (parts per million), the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) says it should be 0.25 ppm while the limit for bottled water is 0.05 ppm. ''You are legally allowed 50 times more arsenic in soft drinks than in bottled water,'' Narain said. The same, she alleged, goes for lead, copper and cadmium. The government's food products order, she charged, regulates general characteristics such as sugar and liquid glucose but not water, the basic component. It specifies potable water but does not define this. PFA regulates pesticides in food but food does not include beverages. One section defines quality standards for non-alcoholic beverages but has nothing to say about pesticide residues. The BIS standards for carbonated beverages are voluntary but there are no standards for water.

       ''We are going to amend that rule and apply stricter rules for bottled water to the raw water used for soft drinks,'' said BIS' Deputy Director-General (technical) K K Goel. ''We will examine the CSE report and if a need is felt for evolving guidelines for pesticides in soft drinks, the recommendations will be sent to our technical committee for effecting the required changes,'' Goel added. Since the bottled water controversy, Coke and Pepsi say they check for 45 pesticides, including the four CSE tested. PFA officials, said Gupta, lift samples ''pretty regularly'' - once in a fortnight.

       Pepsi's Executive Director (operations) Pradeep Sardana said they conducted their own tests in accredited labs in Hyderabad and Holland once every quarter. Groundwater dependence is large but water is drawn from ''deep strata'', where pesticides do not travel in a couple of a years. In addition, all water is treated.

       On Tuesday, Narain also came out with another disturbing finding: There is no legally-enforceable ''right'' to ''clean'' water, merely guidelines which leave nobody accountable. With water the basic raw material for the Rs 7,000-crore soft drink industry, Narain demanded that groundwater use for commercial purposes be regulated, drinking water norms be fixed and norms for food standards reviewed - from the public health imperative viewpoint, not industry's convenience, she said.


VOL 12 ,NO 6 Monday, August 04, 2003

Intro:Deadly pesticides found in 12 leading brands of soft drinks

       The Pollution Monitoring Laboratory (PML) of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) places in the public domain its analysis of the contents of 12 cold drink brands sold in Delhi. Three bottles of each of the 12 brands were purchased from markets across the city and analysed to see if they contained pesticides.

       PML tested the cold drink samples for 16 organochlorine pesticides, 12 organophosphorus pesticides and 4 snythetic pyrethroides - all of these are commonly used in India as insecticides, in agricultural fields as well as at home
The test found: organochlorine resticides LINDANE (g-HCH): This deadly insecticide damages the body's central nervous system as well as immune system and is a confirmed carcinogen. It was found in 100 per cent of cold drink samples. Its concentration ranged from 0.0008 milligram per litre (mg/l) to 0.0042 mg/l in the samples tested. This last amount is 42 times the 0.0001 mg/l EEC limit - a set of standards stipulated by the European Economic Commission to control contamination in water used as 'food' - for maximum admissible concentration for an individual pesticide. It was found in Mirinda lemon. On an average, lindane concentration in all brands was 0.0021 mg/l, or 21 times higher than the EEC norm. (see graph) In the popular Coca-Cola brand lindane concentration was 0.0035 mg/l - a level of concentration which was 35 times higher than the EEC norms.

       DDT AND ITS METABOLITES (DDD & DDE): Also detected in 81 per cent of the samples. Absent in Diet Pepsi, their concentration is as high as 0.0042 mg/l in Mirinda lemon (42 times higher than EEC norms). On average, total DDT and metabolites found in the samples stood at 0.0015 mg/l, 15 times higher than EEC limits. In the popular Pepsi brand it was 16 times higher than EEC norms. In the equally popular Coca-Cola brand, it was 9 times higher than the EEC limit. (see graph)

       It found: organophosphorus pesticides CHLORPYRIFOS: Especially dangerous for mothers-to-be and babies as it is a suspected neuroteratogen (it causes malformations in foetuses), this pesticide was found in 100 per cent of the samples. Maximum concentration was in Mirinda lemon flavour: 0.0072 mg/l , or 72 times more than the EEC single-pesticide norm. The average amount of chlorpyrifos found in all samples was 0.0042 mg/l , 42 times higher than the EEC norm.

       MALATHION: Detected in 97 per cent of the samples, its concentration was highest in a Mirinda lemon sample: 0.0196 mg/l , or 196 times the EEC limit for a single pesticide. Coca-Cola had malathion 137 times higher than EEC norms. Malathion gets activated in the human liver to produce malaoxon, deadly for the nervous system. It is also a confirmed mutagen - it can tinker with the body's chromosomal set-up. In brand terms Two multinationals - Atlanta-headquartered The Coca-Cola Company and New York-based PepsiCo - control the cold drink market in India. Their market share is a fiercely contested secret. They also seem to share a penchant for pesticide residues in their products. Total pesticides in all PepsiCo brands on average was 0.0180 mg/l, 36 times higher than the EEC limit for total pesticides (0.0005 mg/l). Total pesticides in all Coca-Cola brands were 0.0150 mg/l, 30 times more than the same EEC limit. In conclusion, the pesticides found in soft drinks are odiously similar to bottled water, which the PML had investigated earlier in the year.

       Merchanting madira By the 1990s, the carbonated drinks market in the US and Western Europe was saturated. Companies therefore turned to new ones. So came the fizz to the Middle East, refurbished East Europe and Asia. In 1991, PepsiCo entered the newly liberalised Indian market. 2 years later, Coca-Cola re-appeared (it was thrown out in the wake of the 1977 FERA regulations). Slowly beginning to dominate the Indian market - Coca-Cola bought out Parle Beverages and its brands Thums Up, Limca and Gold Spot; in 1999 it acquired Cadbury Schweppes' brands Crush, Canada Dry and Sport Cola. Pepsi, on its part, took over Mumbai-based Duke range of soft drinks - they now rule over it. By March 2001, government estimates that 6540 million cold drink bottles were sold annually in the country. In other words, with over a billion Indians, each Indian would be drinking roughly 6 bottles of soft drinks each year (compare: Pakistan, 17 bottles per capita per year; Sri Lanka, 21 bottles; China, 21). In Delhi, the consumption is a whopping 50 bottles per person per year. Companies are now busy wooing rural markets - the innovative 200 ml bottle, costing Rs 5-7, has been hailed as a success. In short, colanisation is here to happen. But how can quality-conscious multinationals market products unfit
for human consumption?

The regulator's meaningless maze
Will they get away with it?

       They wouldn't have got away in the US. Legally enforceable norms exist there, that regulate the kind of water used to make cold drinks with. (Remember, the main ingredient in a cold drink - or carbonated non-alcoholic beverage, as it is technically called - is water.) In the US, regulations provide that the quality of water used to make cold drinks must be the same as that used to make bottled water. 'Raw water' used to make bottled water falls under the regulative umbrella of the US Food and Drug Administration. In their rule-book, water consumed in this form is a 'food'; therefore water used as an ingredient in beverages - also therefore a food - must meet the same standards as bottled water. In addition the Safe Drinking Water Act, a federal legislation under the Environment Protection Agency (EPA), stipulates drinking water standards to protect public health. Its primary standards are legally enforceable nationwide. The state of Massachussets, for instance, stipulates that the source water used for bottled water (and carbonated drinks) must meet the federal EPA national primary drinking water standards. They wouldn't have got away in Europe. The European Economic Council Directive 80/778/EEC lays down standards for the quality of drinking water intended for human consumption. Such water, it clearly specifies, shall include water used in a food production undertaking for the manufacture or processing of products and substances intended for human consumption, or effecting "the wholesomeness of the foodstuff in its finished form". (From December 25, 2003, this directive will be repealed and replaced by Directive 98/83/EC, in which the maximum admissible concentration for individual and total pesticide is the same.)

       But in India, these companies cannot be taken to court. In fact, forget legal procedure; these companies cannot even be politely told to stick to norms. For - and this is precisely where quality-conscious multinationals laugh all the way to the bank - the norms that regulate the manufacture of cold drinks in India are a meaningless maze. There is Rule 65 of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 (PFA). Rule 65 regulates the presence of insecticides and pesticides in food. But "food" is so defined in Rule 65 as to exclude "beverages". Does this mean the Act has nothing to say about cold drinks? Not at all. Sub-section A.01.01 in Appendix B defines the standards of quality for non-alcoholic beverages, but has nothing to say about pesticide residues. This Act is mandatory, but does not regulate pesticides in soft drinks. Then, there are the specifications for "sweetened aerated water with no fruit juice or fruit pulp or containing less than 10 per cent of fruit juice or fruit pulp" in Part II(D) of The Fruit Products Order (FPO), 1955. FPO rules are as mandatory as the PFA's. It regulates the general characteristics of a beverage. On the quality of the basic raw material it merely says: "water used in the manufacture shall be potable and if required by the licensing officer shall be got examined chemically and bacteriologically by any recognised laboratory". Please note: "waterSshall be potable". But what is "potable"? The Order does not define it; legally, therefore, the order provides no scope to regulate pesticide residues.

       These two mandatory sets of rules apart, there exists IS 2346: 1992, a norm of the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS). It lays down specifications for "carbonated beverages". In the "foreword" to this document, water is clearly mentioned as an ingredient in carbonated beverages: "The quality of a carbonated beverage depends on the quality of the various ingredients that go into its manufacture - water , acidulants, sweetening agents, emulsifiers and stabilisers, flavour, colour and carbon dioxide being the important ones" [emphasis added]. The document then prescribes the requirements and methods by which the quality of carbonated beverages may be gauged. As part of this process, it lists the various ingredients that can be used to make carbonated beverages. In this list, there is no mention of water! In any case, this BIS standard is voluntary in nature (unlike the certification for bottled water); a company needn't meet its specifications.

       BIS has another standard, also voluntary - IS 4251:1967 (reaffirmed 1977) - which prescribes standards for "quality tolerances for water for processed food industry". It's a bizarre piece of standard-setting. In its foreword, it says: "In processed food industry, water is used for a number of purposes, such as processing, washing, flushing and general usage and also for boiler feed and cooling". Isn't it also used to make cold drinks? The bottom line is that in India, the cold drinks industry is virtually unregulated. Strangely, it is also exempted from the provisions of industrial licensing under the Industries (Development and Regulation) Act, 1951. It gets a one-time license to operate from the ministry of food processing industries, which includes a non-objection certificate from the local government and a water analysis report from a public health laboratory. It also requires a no-objection certificate from the state pollution control board.

       That's it. There's no environmental impact assessment, or siting regulations for the industry. Its use of water - largely unpriced groundwater - is not regulated. Forget pesticides. Standards for other substances - such as heavy metals like arsenic or lead - also are many times above the guidelines for drinking water issued by the ministry of urban development (see table: Standards to regulates). For instance, for deadly arsenic, standards differ in different regulations - in soft drinks under the mandatory Food Products Order it is 0.5 ppm; under the BIS 'voluntary' standards, the quantity drops to 0.25 ppm; and strangely, drinking water guidelines specify a safe level of only 0.01 ppm. Therefore, soft drinks have been allowed 50 times higher arsenic content than in drinking water. Allowed lead levels for soft drinks are 50 times higher than bottled water. Cadmium is not even legislated. Why? Don't ask. Working within the meaningless maze of such regulations, common sense dictates that a company would love to set up shop in India.