New Delhi, Feb. 19 (PTI): The government has withdrawn the ISI quality mark for bottled water produced at Bisleri’s Bangalore plant and Pepsico’s Bharuch factory in Gujarat in the wake of reports of high concentration of pesticides in the water.
The drive against bottled water companies, through country-wide inspections, comes in less than a month of the findings by an independent study showing that the bulk of mineral water sold in India has very high levels of pesticide residue which is not in conformity with European norms.
The direction for withdrawal of the ISI mark to eight units, which would practically make it impossible for them to operate in India, came from consumer affairs minister Sharad Yadav on the grounds of failing to meet norms set by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) or for flouting the existing regulations.
The units barred from using the ISI mark are Kothari Beverages, Thane; Ion Exchange, New Mumbai; Pepsico India holding, Bharuch; Bisleri International, Bangalore; Vaibhav Aqua, Mumbai; Sardul Min- eral Water and Soda, Jamshedpur; Vaishali Mineral Water, Hazipur; and Surat Beverages, Dadra.
“The minister has ordered withdrawal of the ISI mark from bottled water produced in eight locations based on nation-wide inspections carried out by the bureau. As a result these plants are debarred from producing and marketing the commodity,” a top BIS official said.
A Pepsi spokesperson said the “water line in the Bharuch factory is very new and was in fact scheduled to receive its approval for starting operations last week after clearing the BIS tests”.
“We had done independent tests of bottled water at our nine plants in the country last week and it was found that all of them meet the BIS, WHO and the EU standards,” the spokesperson said.
A spokesperson of the Mumbai-based Ion Exchange said the company’s consumer products division, which handles the bottled water business, has not received any letter of communication from the BIS. “We will be able to comment only after we receive any notification from the BIS,” the spokesperson said.
Ramesh Chauhan of Bisleri International, whose Bangalore unit has been debarred from using the ISI mark, could not be contacted despite repeated attempts as he was travelling. An official at Bisleri’s Delhi office declined to comment on the issue.
Coca-Cola India vice-president (external) Sunil Gupta said: “We are not aware of any such notice. Once we receive it and study it, we will take necessary action. We reiterate that we provide 100 per cent safe drinking water.” Coca-cola was issued a warning letter by the BIS after inspection of its plant in Kheda, Gujarat.
When asked about the capacity of the Kheda plant, Gupta declined to comment.