New Delhi, August 2, 2006: Three years after CSE released its findings on pesticide residues in soft drinks, a new nationwide study shows nothing much has changed: soft drinks remain unsafe and unhealthy. And public health remains severely compromised. Worse, even the directions given by the Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) have been disregarded: standards for safety have been finalised but blocked because of company opposition. Our health is nobody’s business, it would seem, indicts the study.
The 2006 CSE study tests 57 samples of 11 soft drink brands, from 25 different manufacturing plants of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, spread over 12 states. The study finds pesticide residues in all samples; it finds a cocktail of 3-5 different pesticides in all samples — on an average 24 times higher than BIS norms, which have been finalised but not yet notified. The levels in some samples — for instance, 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 the neurotoxin Chlorpyrifos, 200 times the standard. “This is clearly unacceptable as we know that pesticides are tiny toxins and impact our bodies over time,” says Sunita Narain, director, CSE.
The current study was conducted by the same Pollution Monitoring Laboratory of CSE, which had tested samples in 2003. It will be recalled that the two soft drink companies had raised numerous issues regarding the veracity of the CSE study and the capabilities of its laboratory staff, which were scrutinised and debunked by JPC in its report. The JPC endorsed the methodology and the findings of the 2003 CSE study. This time, further improvements have been made. Firstly, the laboratory is now accredited with ISO 9001:2000 quality management system. Secondly, the laboratory has confirmed the presence of the pesticides using an expensive and state of art equipment — the GS-MS. “We have fully complied with the JPC directions and are even more confident about our findings,” says Chandra Bhushan, associate director at CSE.