The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Centre sets up probe panel

New Delhi, Aug. 22: A 15-member Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) headed by Nationalist Congress Party leader Sharad Pawar was set up today to probe reports of high levels of pesticide residue in a dozen soft drink brands marketed by Coca-Cola India and PepsiCo Holdings India.

The Lok Sabha today set up the committee after a motion on this was formally moved in the House by health and parliamentary affairs minister Sushma Swaraj.

The JPC will assess findings of the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), which had earlier this month stirred up a controversy with a report that alleged most soft drink brands sold in India contained carcinogenic residue of pesticides at levels far higher than what was considered safe by the European Union. In India, there are no norms for pesticide residue in soft drinks.

The panel will also study reports presented by two central laboratories based in Calcutta and Hyderabad, which contradict the CSE report though admitting that nine of the dozen brands in focus have flouted European Union norms. It will also suggest the criteria for laying down safety standards for such drinks, Swaraj told Parliament.

The JPC was set up after Samajwadi Party leader Mulayam Singh Yadav raised a cry soon when Swaraj made a statement in the Lok Sabha yesterday virtually giving the cola giants a clean chit. Opposition MPs also hurled embarrassing charges at the government, saying it had exonerated the cola giants after “receiving donations”.

Ten members on the JPC will be from the Lok Sabha and five from the Upper House. The members nominated to the committee from the Lok Sabha are Pawar, Ananth Kumar and Sudha Yadav of the BJP, Congress leaders Rajesh Chennithala and Avtar Singh Bhadana, K. Yerran Naidu of the Telugu Desam Party, E. Ahmed of the Muslim League, Trinamul Congress’ Ranjit Kumar Panja, Akhilesh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party and Anil Basu of the CPM.

The Rajya Sabha members who have been nominated are Prithviraj Chauhan of the Congress, Shiv Sena leader Sanjay Nirupam, Prasanta Chatterjee of the CPM, S.S. Ahluwalia of the BJP and Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Prem Chand Gupta.

The soft drinks will not be supplied in Parliament till the JPC comes out with its report, Ahmed, chairman of the committee on food management, said.

Bengal report

Bengal environment minister Manab Mukherjee today received reports on tests carried out on products of Coca-Cola and Pepsi by the state pollution control board (PCB).

Mukherjee said chief secretary S.. Roy will send a set of reports to the Union health secretary while the chairman of the state PCB will send another set to the Central Pollution Control Board. He, however, refused to divulge the contents of the reports.

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