Lok Sabha fizz: MPs take on cola firms

NEW DELHI: Incensed by reports of high pesticide contents in aerated drinks, members in the Lok Sabha on Thursday demanded an immediate ban on the sale of Coke and Pepsi.
What raised the temperature unusually high were allegations of “collusion at the highest level” of government with MNCs and reluctance of health minister Anbumani Ramadoss and his senior officials to go after big brands.
Sinking all differences, members assailed cola companies for “slow-poisoning the children” by allowing pesticide contents far above the permissible limit.
Mohammad Salim (CPM) claimed the government inaction against soft drink brands even three years after a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) submitted its report could only be explained by its “collusion”.
This provoked a strong rebuttal from parliamentary affairs minister P R Dasmunsi, leading to sharp exchanges between the two. “Let us not do politics, I deny there was any collusion,” Dasmunsi said, pointing out that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had suggested a comprehensive legislation for food safety.
Referring to the latest report of the Centre for Science and Environment about the hazardous elements in soft drinks, the members demanded that filmstars and celebrities be prohibited from appearing in cola ads.
The issue acquired an emotive dimension with the members dubbing Coke and Pepsi as a form of “cultural invasion” by the West penetrating deep inside the Indian society.
Some members demanded a fresh JPC to go into the issue and said that marketing MNC products be banned until that report is out. Santosh Gangwar (BJP) said television commercials promoting colas were misleading, giving the consumers a false notion about the products.
Dasmunsi later said he would bring the matter to the notice of the concerned ministries — health, consumer affairs and industry — for their response.
With the issue spilling out of the House, the government-Left spat continued. CPI leader Gurudas Dasgupta pointed out that two important sports bodies — BCCI and AIFF — are sponsored by big cola giants and mentioned that those who headed them are both Union ministers — Sharad Pawar and P R Dasmunsi.

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