U.S. Water News Online
NEW DELHI, India -- The Indian arms of PepsiCo Inc. and
Coca-Cola Co. are selling soft drinks in India containing dangerous
levels of pesticide residue, an independent research group says. The
companies defended the quality of their products.
Sunita Narain, chief of the independent New Delhi-based Center for
Science and Environment, told reporters the levels of pesticides in
the PepsiCo brands tested were 36 times higher than European Union
The average for all Coca-Cola products was 30 times higher than
guidelines used by the European Union, she said, noting the residue
was apparently coming from groundwater polluted by toxic pesticides.
The top executives of the two rival companies held a rare joint
news conference denying the allegations and demanding to know what
laboratories did the testing, and how the research was conducted.
The Center acknowledged that Indian brands also have high
pesticide levels, because agricultural pesticides are in the
country's groundwater, 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.
``We tested the two soft drink brands sold in the United States to
see if these contained pesticides. They didn't,'' Narain said.
The toxins found in the soft drinks could, if consumed over a long
period, cause cancer, damage to the nervous system, birth defects and
disruption of the immune system, Narain said. She noted that India
has no laws banning pesticides in soft drinks.
Sanjeev Gupta, president and chief executive of Coca-Cola India,
challenged the assertion that the soft drink sold in India is
different than in other countries. ``Our product is ... the same
product, which we sell in America, in Europe and India,'' he said.
Calling the report ``baseless,'' Rajeev Bakshi, head of PepsiCo
India Holdings Private Ltd., demanded the claims made by the research
body be verified by an independent and accredited laboratory that is
capable of conducting sophisticated tests for pesticides.
Twelve samples of Pepsi and Coke purchased in and around the
Indian capital contained toxic pesticides and insecticides, including
lindane, DDT and malathion, the Center said its researchers found.
It did not say which laboratories were used, but a similar report
by the Center in February on bottled water sold by Coke, Pepsi and
other companies was accepted by the companies. Gupta, in fact, said
that Coke had checked all its processes and established new testing
procedures on the basis of the previous report.
Those earlier findings on bottled water prompted the Indian
government to withdraw quality certificates given to some of India's
most popular brands of bottled water and issue strict guidelines.
Considered one India's leading research centers on environment
issues, the Center for Science and Environment receives funds from
the Indian government as well as domestic and overseas private
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