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Coca Cola, Pepsi have a history with contaminants

Four heavy metals and a harmful compound have been found in samples of Pepsi, Coca Cola, Mountain Dew, Sprite and 7Up


BS Web Team New Delhi
Five different toxins were found during a government study in cold drinks produced by PepsiCo and Coca Cola, the Indian Express reported on Thursday. 

The toxins — heavy metals antimony, lead, chromium and cadmium and the compound DEHP or Di (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate — were found to have contaminated the cold drink samples of Pepsi, Coca Cola, Mountain Dew, Sprite and 7Up. Citing the study commissioned by the Drugs Technical Advisory Board, the news report said that the contaminants originated from the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles they were packaged in.

According to the study cited by the report, the sample of Sprite contained 0.015 mg/L of antimony, 0.007 mg/L of lead, 0.003 mg/L of cadmium, 0.015 mg/L of chromium, and 0.016 mg/L of DEHP. Coca Cola's sample contained 0.006 mg/L of antimony, 0.009 mg/L of lead, 0.011 mg/L of cadmium, 0.026 mg/L of chromium, and 0.026 mg/L of DEHP. Mountain Dew's sample contained 0.012 mg/L of antimony, 0.006 mg/L of lead, 0.016 mg/L of cadmium, 0.017 mg/L of chromium, and 0.014 mg/L of DEHP. Pepsi's sample contained 0.029 mg/L of antimony, 0.011 mg/L of lead, 0.002 mg/L of cadmium, 0.017 mg/L of chromium, and 0.028 mg/L of DEHP. 7UP's sample contained 0.011 mg/L of antimony, 0.004 mg/L of lead, 0.012 mg/L of cadmium, 0.017 mg/L of chromium, and 0.018 mg/L of DEHP.

There were no permissible limits prescribed for heavy metals in cold drinks in India, the report added.

Not the first time

This is not the first time that soft drink manufacturers have been caught on the wrong foot insofar as contaminants and pesticides are concerned.

The year 2003 was a tumultuous one for the India operations of soft drink giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi. That year, according to an Economic Times report, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) alleged in its report that 12 brands from both the soft drink makers contained pesticide levels many times higher than the permissible limits. 

Sales of their products, the report added, took a large hit and for some time refused to show a pick-up despite large-scale damage control.

According to the CSE website, their 2003 study led to the formation of the first Joint Parliamentary Committee looking into the health and safety of Indians. The committee, CSE said, was tasked with verifying the findings, and the organisation claimed that the committee's report "vindicated CSE' findings".

It didn't end with 2003

In 2006, the Gujarat government directed state-run colleges and schools to discontinue sales of Coke and Pepsi soft drinks on their premises, the Washington Post had reported.

The Supreme Court, the report said, also asked Coke and Pepsi to disclose the ingredients of their drinks. The apex court's mover came days after the CSE, again, said that it found pesticide levels 24 times higher than what was permissible in Coke and Pepsi products.

According to a Bloomberg report from 2006, members of the Bharatiya Janata Party had even called for a nationwide ban on Pepsi and Coke, in the wake of the revelations. Further, BJP activists had also smashed Pepsi and Coke bottles and staged mock funerals, the report said. 

2013 relief to Coke

Coca-Cola Co received relief from the Supreme Court in 2013, according to a LiveMint report, when the apex court declined to ban its soft drinks in India but allowed the mandating of a declaration on the packaging and containers that the level of pesticide residue in the drinks was compliant with the permissible limits.

The apex court, the report added, had been hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) by Sunil Mittal originally filed in the Rajasthan high court, which sought a ban on the sale of Coca-Cola drinks, citing the presence of pesticide residue.

Other PILs filed against the soft drink giants:

A PIL was filed in 2003 in the Madras High Court, seeking to restrain Pepsico and Coca Cola and their dealers from selling and transporting their products in Tamil Nadu
Another PIL for restraining Pepsi and Coca Cola from manufacturing, distributing and selling of their soft drinks was filed in the Lucknow bench of Allahabad High Court, in 2003

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First Published: Oct 06 2016 | 2:14 PM IST

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