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Cola laced with caution
An agitation during the pesticide controversy

New Delhi, Dec. 6: One of the world's best-kept secrets may still remain so. But your favourite cola could soon come with a statutory warning that it may also contain traces of pesticides.

Coke and Pepsi today received a blow from the Supreme Court which dismissed two petitions filed by the soft drink giants challenging a Rajasthan High Court order that had directed them to disclose the composition and contents of the products on the bottle or package, including the presence of pesticides and chemicals.

The cola giants have been averse to spelling out the composition ' with Coke always maintaining it has remained a secret formula for over 100 years.

While dismissing the special leave petitions filed by Pepsi Foods Ltd and Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages (P) Ltd, the Supreme Court allowed them to approach the high court with a plea to determine to what extent they need to comply with its directive.

The apex court also suspended implementation of the high court order by two weeks.

The cola companies said they would decide on their course of action after receiving the Supreme Court's order while continuing to assert that their products maintained the highest standards.

In August 2003, the soft drink duo ran into a storm after the Centre for Science and Environment, a Delhi-based NGO, said their products had pesticide residue that was far higher than standards in Europe.

A joint parliamentary panel submitted its report in February, which the cola companies interpreted as a 'clean chit'.

Already a quibble has begun in the courts over what the companies should say on their bottles. The counsel for the two companies, Arun Jaitley and Harish Salve, offered a way out in the apex court by saying that the wording on the containers could read: 'The contents may have traces of pesticide which is well below the prescribed standards.'

A Coke spokesperson said: 'Our products manufactured in India are world class and safe. We comply with all statutory requirements. We follow one quality system across the world. The treated water used to make our beverages across all our plants in the country already meets the highest international standards, including that of the European Union.'

A Pepsi statement said: 'On receipt of the court order, we will decide our further course of action.' It also said its products conform to the highest international standard.

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