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Govt clean chit to soft drinks; JPC to probe

August 21, 2003 12:37 IST
Last Updated: August 21, 2003 13:26 IST

The government on Thursday gave a clean chit to 12 soft drink brands, saying that their samples tested were 'well within the safety limits' prescribed for packaged drinking water at present.

Making a statement in Lok Sabha, Health and Family Welfare Minister Sushma Swaraj said: "The results clearly show that all the 12 samples do not have pesticide residues of the high order as was alleged in a report by the Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi-based NGO."

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JPC to probe

The government also said that a Joint Parliamentary Committee would be set up to probe the reports about high percentage of pesticide residues in Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and ten other soft drink brands.

Lok Sabha Speaker Manohar Joshi told the House the matter was going to be investigated by a JPC.

Pacifying the agitated members, Joshi said according to the procedure, the government would move a motion in this regard.

Joshi gave the ruling after Health Minister Sushma Swaraj made a statement on the issue and replied to the queries of the members.

Govt may introduce EU norms

"Despite the fact that the existing standards of safety are met by the soft drink manufacturers, the government is considering to introduce European Union norms for water content in soft drinks," Swaraj said.

This would be from the date from which the norms would be made applicable for packaged drinking water to bring in harmonization of standards, Swaraj said.

The government would ask the Central Committee for Food Standards to examine application of these standards to other beverages also where water is the main constituent, she said.

The genesis

The Centre for Science and Environment on August 5 had claimed that the 12 bottled soft drinks -- Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Diet Pepsi, Mirinda orange, Mirinda Lemon, Blue Pepsi, 7-Up, Coca Cola, Fanta, Limca, Sprite and Thumbs Up -- failed health standards, testing positive for pesticides.

The CSE had alleged that in the case of 12 soft drink brands, of which samples had been taken, it had found pesticide residues which exceeded EU norms ranging from 11 to 70 times. It had warned that consumption of these brands over a long period would result in complicated health problems.

The CSE said tests conducted by it showed that all samples -- taken from Delhi and nearby areas -- contained residues of four extremely toxic pesticides and insecticides: lindane, DDT, malathion and chlorpyrifos.

Coca-Cola and Pepsi had dismissed the charges as 'baseless' and had moved the court against the Centre for Science and Environment report.

Reacting to the CSE report, the government had banned all soft drinks from being served in Parliament on August 6.

'Drinks safe'

"I would like to assure the honourable members that the soft drinks tested are well within the safety limits prescribed for packaged drinking water at present," Sushma Swaraj said in Parliament on Thursday.

Swaraj said serious apprehension had been expressed in the House on the quality of soft drinks and their safety from the health point of view, especially of popular brands like Pepsi and Coca-Cola, manufactured and marketed in the country.

"The results clearly show that all the 12 samples do not have pesticide residues of the high order as was alleged in the CSE report," she said.

The minister said, "In some cases they are well below the EU standards and in some, a few times higher than the EU limit."

However, according to the standards prescribed under Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, "all these are well within the safety limits as per the existing standards of packaged drinking water."

"It is also to be noted that the assertion of the soft drink manufacturers that their product is within the EU limits has also not proved to be correct for 100 per cent of the samples," she said.

No 'certificate' to MNCs: Govt

Denying the opposition charge that the government had given 'any certificate' to the multi-national companies, Swaraj said two sets of soft drink samples were sent to the Central Food Technological Research Institute, Mysore and Central Food Laboratory, Kolkata for analysis and her statement that they did not have pesticide residues of high order was based on the findings.

Asking the opposition not to make allegations for gaining political mileage, she said that such charges would destroy the credibility of the CFTRI which enjoyed international reputation.

Reacting strongly when Congress member Satyavrata Chaturvedi wanted to know how much donation had been received before the statement was made, Swaraj challenged him to name the person who had got the fund.

Asserting that the government had no objection to a probe into the matter by a JPC, the minister said she would go to the extent to suggest that let it have no no members from the ruling benches.

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