Indian govt admits, colas do have pesticides

The Government of India has finally admitted that there are pesticide residues in soft drinks sold in India. On March 14, the health ministry submitted an affidavit in the Supreme Court of India stating that pesticide residues are indeed present in bottled carbonated drinks manufactured by multinational food giants such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

The ministry also told the apex court that the N K Ganguly Committee, set up to study the issue of pesticide residues and finalise the standard for soft drinks, has said in its report that the government should set the standard.

The ministry told the court that the committee had suggested that there are certain pesticides that have to be monitored over a period of three years.

The Ganguly Committee also suggested that a committee be set up to look into the issue of food safety.

Following the ministry’s submission of an affidavit, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, the Indian arm of Coca-Cola Inc, responded with a statement that read: “Our products are safe and the analysis of the products for pesticide residue is available on our website. We have always supported the setting up of standards on pesticide residue in soft drinks and welcome the move in that direction.”

Sunita Narain, Director of the Centre for Science and the Environment (CSE), which exposed the pesticides residue issue, said that they did not favour a total ban on colas or soft drinks. “We are asking for standards to be set up benchmarking a safe level of pesticide that we can be exposed to. We should understand that we have a lot of pesticides in our food products and things that we eat, but those are an essential part of our diet,” said Narain. “We should reduce pesticides from essential products while we must minimise pesticides from non-essential products like soft drinks.”

The Ganguly Committee was set up after the CSE revealed, in 2006, that new tests had detected dangerous levels of toxins far exceeding international norms, in colas. The CSE has also called for the fixing of Indian norms for food safety, something that the government is yet to do though it has repeatedly promised to.

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