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Pesticide Residues Reported in Coke and Pepsi in India
(Beyond Pesticides, August 7, 2003) New research shows several major brands of soft drinks sold in India to be contaminated with a "deadly cocktail of pesticide residues," according to a study released Tuesday. The study marks Coca-Cola and PepsiCo as two of the main culprits surveyed in Analysis of Pesticide Residues in Soft Drinks, by Prof. (Dr.) H.B. Mathur, Dr. Sapna Johnson and Mr. Avinash Kumar, from the Delhi-based non-governmental organization Centre for Science and Environment (CSE). CSE points out concern for pesticide residues in beverages stems from widespread use of toxic chemicals in agriculture in India, which contaminates groundwater.

The researchers examined pesticide levels in twelve leading brands of soft drinks sold in Delhi by surveying three bottles of each brand. Mirinda Lemon was the most contaminated with 70 times the pesticide levels permitted by the European Economic Commission (EEC). Coke had 45 times the amount and Fanta, Mirinda Orange and Pepsi had 43, 39 and 37 times respectively. The EEC limit for total pesticides is 0.0005 mg/litre. Pesticide levels in Coca-Cola were found at 0.0223 mg/litre, and at .0187 mg/litre for Pepsi. Shocklingly, the pesticide residues found in these soft drinks are such dangerous toxic chemicals that they have been either banned or severely restricted in the U.S. The four chemicals found were lindane, chlorpyrifos, DDT and malathion. The group also analyzed the content of both Pepsi and Coke in the U.S. and found no pesticides.

Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have responded by denying the claims vehemently, considering a possible lawsuit against CSE for their "smear campaign." Company officials said at a press conference, "Our products are tested at 'gold standard' laboratories in Hyderabad and the Netherlands. The Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Department tests samples every 10 to 12 days. Our products meet norms set by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS)."

However, regulations of soft drinks in India are not so cut and dry. For example, the BIS does not have any standards for soft-drink contamination. It only has a set of guidelines for the water used to manufacture the beverages. These guidelines, however, are only voluntary.

As for the PFA, while it has a set of standards, a BIS official said they are far below international standards. Under Rule 65 of the PFA, presence of pesticides in food is regulated. However, food as defined in the Rule excludes beverages, thereby excluding regulation of pesticide presence in beverages.

The Fruit Products Order (FPO) of 1955 states that "sweetened aerated water with no fruit juice or fruit pulp" should be potable, yet does not define 'potable,' leaving it up to the interpretation of manufacturers.

CSE conducted similar research on bottled water in India, researching presence of pesticides in the report Analysis of Pesticide Residues in Bottled Water. Again, pesticide residues were found above acceptable levels. To read these reports, and for further details regarding these studies, visit the CSE website.