In a case of a common threat unifying even fierce rivals, Indian subsidiaries of beverage giants Coca Cola and Pepsi Co today challenged in the Supreme Court an order of the Rajasthan High Court directing them to disclose to consumers that their products contained pesticides. The court fixed August 25 for the final hearing on the petitions.
Appearing for Coca Cola, senior advocate Harish Salve said all products in India using water as a raw material would definitely have pesticide content. Asking the soft drink manufacturers alone to display pesticide content label would severely hamper their sales.
The bench asked the counsel: 'If it is not disputed that there is pesticide in the soft drinks, then why not let the consumer know about it?'
The High Court had given two months to the two companies to comply with its order. The deadline for it ended on August 1.
Salve said that picking up one or two products for such a display regarding pesticides would not help the consumer to make an informed choice.
Instead, it would distort their choice.
He said even milk had poisonous substances like arsenic, albeit within the persmissible limits, but none of the milk marketing agencies had been asked to display the contents in its packaged products. Pepsi's counsel K K Venugopal supported Salve's arguments.
Coke's counsel said the company was not adding anything on its own to its product leading to the entry of the pesticide.
It was the quality of the drinking water that was the reason behind the pesticide content, he said, and added that this amounted to unavoidable contamination as the water used by the company was of the standard equivalent to the one applicable to packaged water sold in the markets.
However, conceding that the consumer had a right to know, Salve said it had to be determined as to what a soft drink company needed to disclose keeping in mind the prevailing standards.