In a new twist to the pesticides-in-cola saga, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on Thursday alleged that the government is under pressure from soft drink companies to delay implementation of standards for soft drinks.
Going a step ahead, the NGO claimed that it has copies of the letters between PepsiCo and the ministry of health to prove that government is succumbing to cola majors’ pressures.
“Even as the judiciary is clear that the issue of public health is not negotiable, government is bending over backwards to accommodate the cola companies’ tactics to delay the standards for soft drinks,” a CSE press release said on Thursday.
The NGO has alleged that the letters between soft drink major PepsiCo India Ltd and the Union ministry of health and family welfare reveal this ‘understanding’ between the protector of health and the companies.
A copy of the letter written by PepsiCo India chairman Rajeev Bakshi dated August 30, 2004 to the secretary, department of health, reads: “We would like to thank you for the clear and precise stand taken by the Ministry on the issue of pesticide residues standard in soft drinks... We are however extremely concerned at the way the FAD 14 of the BIS is rushing to set the standards for finished products without any scientific analysis...The entire soft drink and the food processing industry has strongly represented to the BIS against fixing of such standards...We would also request you sir as the entire issue of food safety falls under the purview of your ministry to use your good offices to ensure that the BIS does not set standards which apart from not helping safety and hygiene in any manner are non-implementable and totally uncalled for.”
Reacting to the allegation, a PepsiCo India spokesperson maintained that the letters are part of the comments made by the company on standards which were notified on July 15. “The health ministry notified on July 15, 2004, the most stringent international standards being followed anywhere in the world including the EU. Our products have always conformed and will conform to these highest international standards that ensure consumer safety. The entire industry and Pepsi, when invited to comment on the draft recommendations prescribing EU water standards for finished beverages, opposed it as we already have the best international standards and there exists no international testing method for finished products. Therefore it is not scientific, prudent, nor in the interest of the consumer.”