An environmental group said on Wednesday bottles of Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. soft drinks in India still contained traces of pesticide, highlighting weak food safety laws in the country.
NEW DELHI An environmental group said on Wednesday bottles of Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc. soft drinks in India still contained traces of pesticide, highlighting weak food safety laws in the country.
"If soft drinks are the choice of millions, the least that can be done is that these drinks are regulated," said Sunita Narain, director of the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), at a news conference.
A 2003 study by CSE briefly dented the companies' sales when it said it found levels of pesticide in the companies' soft drinks in excess of international standards.
That study was endorsed by India's parliament though the soft drink majors said at the time the drinks were safe to consume and they repeated their stand on Wednesday.
But despite government vows of introducing legal limits for toxins in soft drinks, not enough had been done since 2003, CSE said.
The group called upon consumers to avoid drinking Coke and Pepsi and other soft drink brands produced by the two U.S. firms until they cleaned up the product.
The Indian Soft Drink Manufacturers Association, of which PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are members, said the soft drinks were safe to consume.
"The soft drinks manufactured in India comply with stringent international norms and all applicable national regulations," the industry body said in a statement.
The CSE said that pesticides are also present in other foods and drinks routinely consumed by Indians.
The new study found three to five different pesticides in 57 samples of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo drinks produced in 12 Indian states, CSE said.
The average amount of pesticide residues found in the samples was 11.85 parts per billion (ppb), 24 times higher than the permitted limit of 0.5 ppb recently drafted -- but not yet implemented-- by the Bureau of Indian Standards, a government agency that sets safety and hygiene standards for commercial products.
In some cases, the levels were up to 200 times the limit.
The study in 2003 found pesticide residues on average 34 times higher than the 0.5ppb limit.
Officials at the Ministry of Health were unavailable for comment on the CSE report