The Indian branches of Coca Cola and Pepsi have denied that their soft drinks contain dangerous levels of pesticides.
The denial follows allegations by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) — an independent public interest organisation based in New Delhi — that levels of pesticides in the companies' Indian products are more than 30 times greater than guidelines used by the European Union. Coca Cola has responded by calling the CSE report "incorrect and baseless".
CSE acknowledges that all Indian soft drink brands are likely to contain high levels of pesticides — owing to the presence of these chemicals in the country's groundwater. But the organisation has specifically chosen to target Coca Cola and Pepsi because they account for the majority of bottled soft drinks consumed in India.
Coca Cola, however, insists that there is "no duality of standards" between its Indian and US products, and both companies are calling for the allegations to be verified by an independent laboratory.
The controversy follows a similar report by CSE earlier this year on bottled water sold by Pepsi, Coca Cola and other companies, which finally led the India government to tighten regulations and withdraw quality certificates given to some of India's most popular brands of bottled water.
The director of CSE, Sunita Narain, warns that the toxins found in the drinks could, if consumed over a long period, cause cancer, birth defects and damage to the nervous and immune systems.
© SciDev.Net 2003