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Bengal hits testing track

Calcutta, Aug. 6: The health department today said it would start collecting samples of soft drinks marketed by Coca-Cola and Pepsi in the city for examination at its Kyd Street laboratory.

Director of health services Prabhakar Chatterjee, who met officials of the prevention of food adulteration cell, said the Bengal government was attaching “grave importance” to yesterday’s report that the soft drinks contained pesticides at least 30 times higher than international standards. The study was conducted by the Centre for Science and Environment.

The civic health department today collected samples of bottled soft drinks from different parts of the city for laboratory tests. According to mayor Subrata Mukherjee, the CMC started this sample collection drive as a precautionary measure.

“We have provisions at our Kyd Street laboratory to carry out tests for pesticides and heavy metals. But, in all districts, we don’t have public analysts whose opinion on a sample of a food item or a soft drink is of utmost importance,” Chatterjee said.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee said at Writers’ Buildings that he had asked officials to contact the central government to find out more details.

Industry minister Nirupam Sen described the development as “serious” and said the government is looking into the matter.

Chatterjee said two more sophisticated machines will soon be installed so that large-scale tests for pesticides and heavy metals can be conducted at the Kyd Street laboratory.

“Once we instal these machines, we will be able to carry out many more tests to detect pesticides and heavy metals in food and soft drinks. The machines are expected to become operational within a month,” the health services director added.

The health department has, in the past, collected samples at random and bust several rackets in spurious soft drinks in the city and the districts, but this will be the first time that it will test branded soft drinks for contamination.

Over the last three years, the department has also carried out tests on bottled drinking water all over the state following complaints of contamination and poor quality.

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