M A I N   N E W S

Soft drinks still hard on health, claims CSE
Pesticide residue content 17 times higher in Punjab
Vibha Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, August 2
Three years after its findings on pesticide contents in soft drinks created a furor in the country, the Centre of Science and Environment (CSE) today claimed that soft drinks were still unsafe and the public health domain in the country was still “severely compromised”.

The latest CSE study has found a cocktail of three to six pesticides in 11 soft drink brands of Coca Cola and PepsiCo. On an average, these contents were 24 times higher than the BIS norms.

Taking the pesticide-residue controversy a step further, CSE director Sunita Narain said the directions given by the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) had been completely disregarded by the Union Health Ministry and standards for safety blocked because of opposition from cola companies.

“Our health is nobody’s business, it seems,” she said. She termed the Health Ministry’s opinion that more research was required before standards could be set “a grave public health scandal”.

Alleging that cola companies were strongly opposed to standards “as it would bring them under the ambit of regulators”, she demanded that the government must notify the final product standards so that soft drinks, consumed primarily by children, could be checked and regulated.

The 2006-CSE study on 57 samples of 11 soft drink brands from 25 different manufacturing plants of Coca Cola and PepsiCo in 12 states, including Punjab, Delhi, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, has come out with some interesting results.

In Punjab, samples were collected from Ludhiana, Faridkot and Amritsar in which the CSE found the pesticide residue contents to be 17 to 20 times higher than the permissible BIS limit.

Considering that in the earlier study, the cola companies had raised objections about authenticity of its testing facilities, this time the CSE said the presence of pesticides had been confirmed using the expensive GS-MS equipment.

The study found a cocktail of three to six pesticides in all samples — on an average 24 times higher than BIS norms. “The levels in some samples, for example Coca Cola bought in Kolkata, exceeded the BIS standards by 140 times for the deadly pesticide Lindane. Similarly, a Coca Cola sample manufactured in Thane contained neuro-toxin Chloropyrifos 200 times the standard,” she said.

Three years ago, when the tests were conducted, the CSE could spot only four pesticides. This time, the number has gone up to five in some cases, says the study “Soft Drinks — Hard Truth II.”

The average amount of pesticide residues found in all samples was 11.85 parts per billion, which is 24 times higher than the BIS standards for pesticides in soft drinks, 0.5 ppb. In 2003, the average level of pesticide residues in Delhi samples was 34 times above the BIS standard.

On an average, Pepsi cola contained 30 times higher residues, while the figure was 27 times higher in case of Coca Cola products.




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