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Water to get food tag

New Delhi, Aug. 27: The Centre has decided to promulgate an ordinance to fix safety standards for drinking water and categorise it as a food item.

The health ministry has already drafted a proposal for the consideration of the Union cabinet. Once the cabinet okays it, the government will promulgate the ordinance.

The ministry has also decided to make public the test results of 12 soft drink brands tomorrow. The test was ordered following a Centre for Science and Environment report alleging presence of pesticides in the brands.

Health minister Sushma Swaraj today said though there were norms for food, water was not covered as the definition of food in India did not include water.

“Thus, we have decided to include water in food definition. It needs to be done through a legislation, but we do not want to wait and want to carry out the changes through an ordinance,” she said. Once it is done, an expert panel will be set up to decide the norms for water, she added.

Reacting to allegations that the cola report was not accessible, Swaraj said: “There is nothing hidden on the issue. We will make the report public tomorrow.”

She said the government had “nothing to do” with the testing by the two laboratories, the Central Food and Technology Research Institute, Mysore, and the Central Food Laboratory, Calcutta. The Mysore body is the only accredited laboratory in the country that is internationally recognised.

The laboratories had lifted the soft drink samples from the market and these were manufactured in the same bottling plants as those tested by the Centre for Science and Environment, she said.

Of the 12 brands tested, three met the European Union norms on pesticides while nine did not, she said.

Asked why the ban continued in Parliament despite her statement that the brands were safe as per Indian norms, Swaraj said the decision to ban was not taken by the health minister or parliamentary affairs minister, but by the chairman of the House catering committee. The latter decided to continue the ban till the report of joint parliamentary committee, she added.

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