New Delhi. Aug.6: The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) which found pesticides in soft drinks says it is “absolutely sure” about its data, although its laboratory is not yet accredited for pesticide testing.
Responding to criticism that the CSE laboratory, where soft drink samples were examined, was not certified by the government for testing, CSE director Sunita Narain said: “We’re 150 per cent sure about our data.”
“Our findings on pesticide residues have been challenged in the past, but we stand vindicated today,” she said.
The National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration (NABL) is an apex agency that certifies laboratories as competent for conducting various tests, including those to detect contamination in food and drinks.
“Accreditation is about competence, but only six laboratories in India today have NABL accreditation for examining pesticide residues in food and beverages,” said Dr A.K. Chakravarty, director of NABL.
“We wish more labs, including the CSE lab, apply for accreditation, then there shouldn’t be controversy over laboratory results,” Chakravarty said.
Soft drink manufacturers had questioned the CSE laboratory’s testing ability and had said independent, accredited laboratories should be involved in testing.
A senior officer at Vimta Labs, a Hyderabad-based NABL-accredited organisation, told The Telegraph that his laboratory had been testing treated water and raw water used for soft drinks at bottling plants.
Dr S.P. Vasi Reddi, managing director of Vimta Labs, said that while his laboratory was testing bottled water regularly, one company had sent just two samples — two bottles — of a soft drink for testing in March this year. The laboratory failed to detect any pesticides in one bottle, and the pesticide residue was well below the permissible limit in the other bottle, he said.
Scientists say the larger the number of samples, the greater will be the reliability of the findings. But accredited laboratories are independent contract organisations. “We can’t advise a customer about the frequency of testing,” Reddi said.
Besides Vimta Labs, NABL has accredited five other organisations for testing food contamination — the Food Research Analysis Centre, New Delhi, the Industrial Toxicological Research Institute, Lucknow, the Shri Ram Institute in Bangalore, and two laboratories in Calcutta and Chennai.