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Test sample scurry, schools shy away

Worried over the “harmful effects” of fizzy drinks, the state government, the civic authorities and several city schools launched their own cola checks.

On Thursday, the government and the Calcutta Municipal Corporation (CMC), separately, collected samples of soft drinks produced by Coke and Pepsi, to be tested in government-run laboratories, and schools asked children to give the fizzies a wide berth.

Chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee himself found it necessary to respond to the “concerns” raised after the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment discovered unduly high quantities of pesticides in the soft drinks. “I have spoken to the health and environment ministers,” he said, offering to come out with the details on Friday.

Officials collected sludge from effluents discharged by the bottling plants, environment minister Manab Mukherjee said. He did not specify which of the bottling plants of the two multinationals the samples were collected from. “We hope to get a preliminary report by Friday,” he added.

The CMC, too, got into the act, with member, mayor-in-council (health), Pradip Ghosh, leading a team of officials to Coke’s Taratala bottling plant to collect 36 bottles of the six brands. “We will visit a Pepsi depot on Saturday and collect samples,” Ghosh said. The tests will take “10 to 12 days”. The health and environment departments collected Pepsi and Coca-Cola products and sent them to the health department’s Kyd Street and the West Bengal Pollution Control Board laboratories, officials said.

The schools warned their wards against drinking the fizzies till they were found safe. Some schools raised the issue during their morning assemblies. But those having soft drinks-vending stalls on campus went a step further, asking vendors to temporarily stop selling the drinks.

Loreto Day School (Sealdah) asked parents to ensure their children did not buy these drinks. South Point was undecided whether to sell. Welland Gouldsmith barred vendors from the campus.

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