Friday, August 22, 2003, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Sushma Swaraj gives clean chit to Pepsi, Coke
Joint Parliamentary Committee to investigate pesticide issue
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 21
A Joint Parliamentary Committee will probe the reports about high percentage of pesticide residues in Coca Cola, Pepsi Cola and 10 other soft drink brands, Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi told the House today.

Congress spokesman Satyavrata Chaturvedi welcomed the government decision to constitute a JPC on this issue while Union Health Minister Sushma Swaraj went to the extent of making a suggestion in the Lok Sabha that it would be alright with the government if the proposed JPC had no members from the ruling Benches.

The Speaker said in his ruling that the government would move a motion in this regard according to the procedure. He gave the ruling after Ms Swaraj made a statement on the issue and responded to the queries of members.

Ms Swaraj said all 12 soft drink brands tested by the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore, and the Central Food Laboratory (CFL), Kolkata, were found to conform to the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) rules, but nine brands had pesticide contents above the limits prescribed under the European Union (EU) standards.

She said the results clearly showed that all 12 samples “do not have pesticide residues of the high order as was alleged in the Centre for Science Environment (CSE) report.”

The minister informed that all tested brands were according to the standards prescribed under the PFA rules and all these were well within the safety limits as per the existing standards of packaged drinking water.

Result from the CFL also states that in three samples, the total pesticide residues were below the EU limits whereas in the other nine samples, the number of times the residues are higher varies from 1.2 to 5.22.

Another important observation of both laboratories is that malathion, which was alleged to be 87 times the EU limit as per the CSE report, was found to be totally absent in all samples.

“It is also to be noted that the assertion of the soft drink manufacturers that their product is within the EU limits has also not proved to be correct for 100 per cent of the samples,” she added. She did not specify the three brands which passed the tests conducted even under the EU standards.

Ms Swaraj said the government was considering introduction of EU norms for water content in soft drinks from January 1 next year.

Ms Swaraj denied the Opposition charge that the government had given “any certificate” to the multi-national soft drink companies.

Tempers ran high when Mr Satyavrata Chaturvedi (Congress) wanted to know how much donation had been received before the statement was made. The minister challenged him to name the person who had got the fund.

Earlier, Lok Janshakti Party leader Ram Vilas Paswan said “you have given a certificate” and wanted to know whether the government had conducted any investigation prior to the findings of the Delhi-based NGO, the Centre for Science and Environment, which had led to the boycott of these drinks.

As soon as Ms Swaraj completed her statement, Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav suggested that a JPC be set up to look into the issue.

The Speaker then intervened to say that he would not allow any member to speak on the issue and observed that the government would move a motion for setting up of a JPC to probe the matter.


Unfortunate, says CSE

New Delhi, August 21
The CSE today dubbed as “very unfortunate” the government’s statement in the Lok Sabha that the pesticides content in soft drinks was well within the prescribed standards for bottled water “at present”.

It said the NGO had, in fact, been vindicated by the government’s probe which, too, detected pesticides in seven of the 12 bottles which were put to test.

CSE Director Sunita Narain, however, welcomed Health Minister Sushma Swaraj’s statement that the government might consider applying European Union norms for water used in soft drinks. — PTI

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