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INDIA: Court seeks Coke, Pepsi reply to additives petition

Reuters India
August 4th, 2006

Local arms of cola giants Coca-Cola and PepsiCo were asked by the Supreme Court on Friday to respond to a petition seeking to force them to list all chemicals present in their drinks on bottles.

The move comes two days after a local environmental group, the Centre for Science and Environment, said it had found pesticide residues in the companies' drinks in excess of international guidelines.

But Friday's hearing had been scheduled weeks before the findings were released.

"The court has issued notices to Coke and Pepsi and asked them to submit their replies within four weeks," Vishal Gupta, a lawyer representing the petitioner, the Centre for Public Interest Litigation (CPIL), said.

Both companies, in a statement on Wednesday by the Indian Soft Drink Manufacturers Association, said their drinks were safe and they hold consumer safety paramount.

Neither company would comment on the court's request.

The case brought by the CPIL was prompted by an earlier CSE study which reported the presence of pesticides in drinks sold in India.

It has rumbled on for two years, delayed by government assurances that it was tightening food safety regulations that would have potentially short-circuited the case.

The group wants tighter rules on artificial additives used in food and drink in India.

The latest pesticide study by the Delhi-based CSE found an average pesticide residue of 11.85 parts per billion in 57 samples of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo drinks produced in 12 Indian states.

This is about 24 times higher than limits agreed, but not yet enforced, by the Bureau of Indian Standards.

The CSE said pesticide levels were not necessarily any higher in cola than in other foods and drinks routinely consumed by Indians. The difference is that soft drinks do not have enough nutritional value to make consuming trace amounts of pesticide worth the trade-off, it said.

Meanwhile, Rajasthan banned the two companies' drinks in all the state's 100,000 educational institutions following the publication of the CSE study, said Ghanshyam Tiwari, the state's education minister.

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