Cola & Pepsi "Toxic" in India
A reminder that the reason why multinationas have set up in
Muslim and "third world" countries is not out of benevolence
for us, but rather exploitation. A Coke can bought in India is
not the same as one bought in the US or UK - in India it will
contain over 30 times the EU limit for pesticides and include
banned substances blamed for birth defects and cancer. Still want
to drink Coke? Join the boycott
orders an inquiry into 'toxic soft drinks' claim
Paul Brown, environment correspondent
August 7, 2003
The Indian government has ordered in investigation into why an
analysis of 12 brands of cold drinks owned and marketed by Coca-Cola
and Pepsi allegedly found that they contained on average more than
30 times the EU legal limit for pesticides.
The allegations are bound to seriously damage the fast expanding
soft drinks market in India, which sells 6.5 bn bottles a year.
The chemicals identified - including DDT, which is banned in Europe
and the US - are blamed for birth defects and cancer.
In a display of unity, MPs from both the ruling coalition and the
opposition called for further investigations after the report by
the independent New Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment
The health minister, Sushma Swaraj, said the findings were startling,
and the government had ordered a comprehensive investigation. "I
will collect all the facts and come back to the House," he
Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi strenuously denied the claims. They said
the report was "baseless".
The tests were conducted by CSE's pollution monitoring laboratory
in New Delhi, on bottles of drinks allegedly bought in the Indian
The laboratory said it acquired bottles of Pepsi and Coca-Cola
manufactured in the United States, where strict controls are enforced,
and using identical testing methods, found no residues.
Coca-Cola and Pepsi in India have a virtual monopoly and market
12 brands aggressively to the growing numbers of middle and upper
class children who can afford them.
These brands, Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Diet Pepsi, Mirinda orange,
Mirinda lemon, Blue Pepsi, 7-Up, Coca-Cola, Fanta, Limca, Sprite
and Thums Up contain 86% to 90% water.
They were dubbed toxic yesterday by Down to Earth, the CSE's magazine.
CSE said it tested the drinks for organochlorine and organophosphorus
pesticides and synthetic pyrethroids - all commonly used in India
as insecticides. It claimed that all samples contained residues
of four extremely toxic pesticides and insecticides: lindane, DDT,
malathion and chlorpyrifos. In all samples, the claimed levels of
pesticide residues far exceeded the EU's maximum residue limit for
pesticides in drinking water.
Down to Earth claimed that "each sample had enough poison
to cause, in the long term, cancer, damage to the nervous and reproductive
systems, birth defects and severe disruption of the immune system."
Coca-Cola and Pepsi, the two leading brands, had almost similar
concentrations of residues.
Soft drinks have been exempted from India's food regulations.
Down to Earth said: "It is clear that the regulations have
been designed in total disregard for public health."
After the allegations were published the two companies came together
for a rare joint news conference.
Rajeev Bakshi, Pepsi India's chief executive, told reporters: "The
report is baseless. We conform to the best international norms.
We're open to our product being tested anywhere in the world by
an independent and accredited laboratory." Sanjiv Gupta, president
of Coca-Cola India, said: "We test our brands very regularly
in top-grade laboratories in India and abroad," he said.
The laboratory decided to do the tests on locally marketed soft
drinks after bottled water sold in India was found to contain toxic