Tag Archives: Coca Cola

Aamir Khan advised to study science before claiming that Coke does not contain pesticides

Indo Asian News Service, October 18, 2006
Production and sale of Coca Cola was banned by the Indian state of Kerala in August 2006
Bhopal, Oct 18 (IANS) Anti-coke crusader and Centre for Science and Environment Director Sunita Narain has advised Bollywood star Aamir Khan to study science and then tell people whether the cold drinks sold in the country contain pesticides or not.
Narain who was here to attend a function organised to mark the 10th anniversary of Sambhavna Trust Clinic Tuesday, told IANS that the manner in which Khan was going about telling people that soft drinks do not contain pesticides shows that he has not been provided right information by the companies manufacturing drinks hazardous to health.
She said the publicity activity of Khan for cold drink companies was highly irresponsible and he was giving wrong information to the people. The actor should first study science and then say anything with authenticity.
“I had demanded that a standard for pesticide content be set but the government did not respond favourably,” Narain said.
The clinic, working for the cause of Bhopal Gas Tragedy victims, has in 10 years treated free over 22,000 people affected by poisonous Methyl Iso Cyanate (MIC) gas that leaked from the Union Carbide pesticide plant on Dec 3, 1984.


There is a 300 ml half-empty bottle of Coca-Cola on my table as I write this. If I’m a pessimist — and if I was terrified by the latest Centre of Science and Environment (CSE) findings about pesticide residue in my Coke — I would have seen a 300 ml half-full bottle. But even after the extremely articulate Sunita Narain of CSE warned me that I am quaffing 25 times the permissible amount of DDT, lindane, malathion, chlorpyritos and other toxins that sound like WMD ingredients, I continue to drink the stuff. Clearly, her statement about pesticide residue in colas — “grave public health scandal” — hasn’t given me ulcers yet.
And that’s because as I cast shifty glances at the (by now, 3/4th-empty, 1/4th full) Coke bottle, I think of the AquaGuard ‘Reverse Osmosis’ gadget that’s installed in my kitchen in moderately affluent east Delhi. Like Narain, the nice Eureka Forbes man was concerned enough about my well-being to point out that the heavy metal in the drinking water my building society gets is terribly harmful. That was reason enough for me to not think twice about installing a machine that would ‘purify’ the water that, if left to itself, would have led to my slow, painful death.
I don’t quite know how many households in east Delhi, Delhi or India have protected themselves from ‘unhealthy’ drinking water. But I will be extremely surprised if Eureka Forbes purifiers are as ubiquitous as, say, Coke bottles in the country. By that reckoning one supposes that a whole lot of people — the majority of whom are not consumers of Coca-Cola or Pepsi or any other product of the two American hegemons — consume water that is full of poison. I’d say that qualifies as a “grave public health scandal”.
But then, is it really?
Bruce Ames, Professor of Biochemistry, University of California, invented a procedure in the Seventies that allows scientists to test chemicals to see whether they harm humans or not. I know he’s an American, which automatically makes him a CIA agent in the eyes of Kerala Chief Minister VS Achuthanandan. But in a path-breaking study Pollution, Pesticides & Cancer: Misconceptions (http://www.heartland.org/pdf/23122a.pdf), Ames and fellow researcher Lois Gold found that natural carcinogens are found everywhere — in fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices. Human exposure to natural chemicals, therefore, is much higher and more frequent than to synthetic chemicals. And here’s the show-stopper: “Exposure to synthetic pollutants are tiny and rarely seem plausible as a causal factor.” Which essentially means if the CSE whitecoats swung their pesticide-detecting Geiger counters towards that rotund cauliflower head, or that wonderfully purple brinjal, or that fresh mound of string beans in your local sabzi mandi, they will detect nasty pesticide residues that will make colas seem like mother’s milk.
But then Sunita Narain telling us — with the likes of anti-hegemon Comrade Achuthanandan listening in from the sides — that drinking a product that has its headquarters in Atlanta, USA, and is a byword for ‘MNC imperialism’ is a dangerous activity is not quite the same thing as Sunita Narain telling the farmer in Bhatinda that his cabbage patch is a killing field. The laughter — never mind the outrage — that will emanate across Punjab, and then the rest of the country, will drown out words with Latin names that Narain utters with genuine concern. The CSE’s panga is apparently with chemical companies. If cola giants are caught in the crossfire, tough.
But as I order my second bottle of Coke, I am perturbed about something else associated with the aerated drinks industry. No, it’s not about Americans from Atlanta, all vaguely looking like former US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage with red-and-white caps, descending on India and taking over. It’s about the real problem of depleted groundwater for which manufacturers like Coca-Cola, because of the very nature of their product, are seen as water-sucking vampires.
In April 2002, it was because of people protesting against the scarcity of drinking water in water-scarce Plachimada, Kerala, while the Coca-Cola bottling factory managed to obtain and utilise 350,000 litres of ground water a day that led to the high court shutting down the plant. Comrade Achuthanandan had been there too, spearheading that campaign, a precious moment in his continuing fight against the ‘imperialism of multinationals’ (not my words, but that of LDF MP Sebastian Paul on CNN-IBN). Popular anger against the cola giant was vented in April 2003 in Sivaganga, Tamil Nadu, and in Kala Dera near Jaipur in August 2004 for the same reason.
Coca-Cola and Pepsi do not break any laws when they gather (or, in the words of protesting locals, ‘steal’) groundwater for their products. Neither do the millions of farmers in Punjab, Haryana, Gujarat and Tamil Nadu growing high-yielding crops that require vast amounts of water. In both cases, the cost of groundwater is practically nil — the costs being in extracting and transporting the water. In other words, in India where groundwater is a scarcity in many areas, there is no policy for water withdrawal. A model bill was circulated in the Seventies by the Central Groundwater Board that planned a centralised system of regulation involving licences and permits. But there remains no balance of private rights and regulatory mechanisms that can provide a basic measure of water security for all.
Luckily, cola bottling plants serve as the perfect ‘evil zamindar’ to India’s groundwater depletion/scarcity problems. Is it easier to tell a rich farmer to pay for his water or to say, as Nandlal ‘Master’ Prasad, leader of the anti-Coke protests in Mehdiganj in Varanasi district, does, that “drinking Coca-Cola is like drinking farmer’s blood”?
It’s at times like these that I get all misty-eyed and think of George Fernandes, Industry Minister in Morarji Desai’s government. He might not have thrown Union Carbide out — the MNC that constructed a spanking new pesticide plant in Bhopal in 1973 — but Firebrand George pushed me into becoming a 16-year-long Campa-Cola junkie in the summer of 1977.
While nothing beats an ice-cold Coca-Cola (sorry, Pepsi-log), I was happy during my formative years in the knowledge that Campa-Cola was bereft of any pesticide residue and was made without denying anyone a drop of water. Oh, for those happy Pure Drinks days when there were no MNCs to blame things for, and no Sunita Narains to make us suddenly look at veggies with extreme suspicion.

Indian state bans sale, production of products made by Coke and Pepsi over pesticide concerns

A southern Indian state on Wednesday banned the sale and production of Coke, Pepsi, Sprite and other soft drinks made by the Indian subsidiaries of Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo Inc., an official said.
Four Indian states have already banned the sale of Coke, Pepsi and other soft drinks at schools, colleges and government offices after a research group in New Delhi last week claimed they contained high levels of pesticide residue. But the state of Kerala was the first to impose a total ban on production and sales.
The moves likely will hurt sales of Coca Cola and PepsiCo beverages in India. The two companies account for nearly 80 percent of India’s $2 billion-plus soft drinks market.
Kerala’s health secretary, Viswas Mehta, told The Associated Press the state banned the drinks because of concerns over pesticide contamination and said his department began collecting its own samples of Coke and Pepsi for independent testing.
Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi insist their drinks are safe.
“For three years we have looked very hard at this and engaged the best scientific minds in the world, and all of the data and all of the science point to the fact our products in India are absolutely safe, just as they are elsewhere in the world,” said Dick Detwiler, a spokesman for PepsiCo’s international division in Purchase, N.Y.
Kari Bjorhus, a spokesperson for Coca-Cola, said the company has not received a copy of the order, but is “disappointed that the government would make a decision like that based on inaccurate information.”
“Our products are perfectly safe and there is no reason to take them away from consumers,” she said.
The Center for Science and Environment in New Delhi said it found pesticide residues in samples of Coke and Pepsi that were 24 times above the limits set by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
The center said it carried out tests on 57 samples taken from 11 soft drink brands made by Coca-Cola India and PepsiCo India and found a “cocktail of three to five different pesticides,” all apparently present in water used to make the drinks.
The toxins could, if consumed over a long period, cause cancer, damage to the nervous system, birth defects and disruption of the immune system, the center said.
India’s Supreme Court has since asked the two companies to disclose the contents of their soft drinks. Four Indian states _ Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Chattisgarh _ have already imposed a ban on sale of Coke and Pepsi at colleges, schools and government offices. Several other states have said they are examining the issue.
On Tuesday, PepsiCo placed advertisements with several Indian newspapers saying the company follows Indian government’s regulations and the “pesticide residues present in soft drinks are minuscule.”
Insisting that food items across the world are bound to contain residues of pesticides used by farmers, the company said what is important is whether the residues conform to norms set by the World Health Organization and other national authorities.
“Our beverages in India are suitable for anyone, anywhere,” the statement said. “We drink them. We share them with our families and friends. And we know they are safe for you.”
This is not the first time Coca-Cola and PepsiCo in India have faced charges of pesticide content in their soft drinks.
The allegations surfaced three years ago, when the Center for Science and Environment said its tests revealed PepsiCo and Coca-Cola drinks sold in India contained pesticides that were respectively 36 and 30 times higher than European Union safety standards.
At the time, the companies acknowledged that their sales had gone down for several months, until the controversy slowly faded from public memory.

Coke responds to India pesticide charges

ATLANTA – The Coca-Cola Co. is running ads in several newspapers in India to counter renewed allegations its drinks have high levels of pesticides.
The move comes after the government of India’s western Gujarat state asked state-run colleges and schools not to allow sales of Coke and Pepsi soft drinks on their premises.
Coke is running an advertisement in several newspapers in India that say Coke has had tests conducted in independent laboratories and found its products “meet with all Indian and international applicable standards, including those being considered by the regulators in India.”
India’s Supreme Court on Friday asked Coke and Pepsi to disclose the ingredients in their drinks. The request came a couple of days after a New Delhi-based environmental group, the Center for Science and Environment, said it tested Coke and Pepsi products and found pesticide levels 24 times higher than what is allowed.
“We have looked very hard at this for three years, and all the data and all the science point to the fact that our products are absolutely safe,” Pepsi spokesman Dick Detwiler said Monday.
The pesticide challenge is one of several Atlanta-based Coke faces in India.
The country, while not a big soft drink market, would seem to have a lot of growth potential. But Indians consume an average of only eight 8-ounce soft drink servings per year, compared with an average of 837 for Americans, according to Beverage Digest statistics.
And Coke has seen its sales volume decline in the market recently. In the second quarter, volume slipped 12 percent compared with the same period in 2005. In the first quarter, volume fell 10 percent.
In addition to the pesticide controversy, the company has been accused of damaging India’s water supply. Also, Coke raised prices in the country this year, which hurt sales, according to the company.

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.