Indian Environment Body Stands By Coke, Pepsi Pesticide Charges

A leading Indian environmental group is standing by its allegations of high pesticide levels in locally bottled Coke and Pepsi despite a barrage of denials by the U.S soft drink heavyweights. "We have the right test methodology and the experience," the director of the New Delhi-based Center for Science and Environment director Sunita Narain said Aug.19.

The center sparked uproar with a study it released this month claiming high levels of toxic chemicals in 57 drink products taken from 25 Indian Coca-Cola and PepsiCo plants. State Health Minister R. Ashok said government-supervised tests at a "well-equipped" private lab found Coke products contained a pesticide called malathion which can cause breathing problems, vomiting and other ill effects.

The report prompted southern Kerala state to ban Coke and Pepsi drinks while five other states barred them from sale in schools and government offices. The federal opposition demanded a national ban while some protesters went on cola-bottle smashing sprees.

The cola companies shot back with studies they say show their beverages comply not only with proposed new Indian safety standards but those of the EU -- the world's toughest. They also challenged the center's test methods, calling them "prone to generating false results."

The U.S. government and business leaders, meanwhile, have warned of a potential fallout in investment in the booming country from the controversy which has reminded investors that India -- despite 15 years of economic reforms -- remains an unpredictable place to do business.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2006

TAGS: Regulations
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