The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bottler for release of cola report

Calcutta, Sept. 3: A delegation from Diamond Beverages, the authorised Coca-Cola bottlers in the city, today asked industries and commerce minister Nirupam Sen to intervene in the cola controversy.

The team said the state Pollution Control Board should release its test report on the soft drink samples they had picked up from their bottling plants. “As far as we know, the board hasn’t found anything wrong in the products,” said .R. Goenka, managing director of Diamond Beverages. He urged Sen to take up the matter with the board as the “adverse publicity” was affecting their business.

“… I will discuss the matter with the departments concerned. I have also asked them (the bottlers) to contact the board authorities and the environment department,” Sen said.

The demand to make the report public was aired not only at Writers’ Building, but also at the board’s Dankuni office.

“Around 200 people, who we know are from the bottling plant of Coke stormed our Dankuni office and gheraoed employees for more than four hours on Tuesday afternoon,” board chairman Hirak Ghosh said. The board today lodged an FIR at Dankuni coal complex police station against two senior plant managers and the goons who accompanied them.

“The demonstrators demanded the board drop all charges against the cola giants. But their main demand was making the test report on bottled drinks available to the public,” Ghosh said.

The pollution board has sent the drink results to the Central Pollution Control Board and the Union health ministry.

No one was available for comment at the Dankuni plant. Goenka confirmed that employees from the plant had visited the board office and demanded the report be released. He said a clean chit from the board would boost cola sales.

Speaking to the media at Writers’, Goenka said the public analyst of the Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s health department had given six soft drinks a clean chit after testing samples collected from the Taratala plant. The drinks to be cleared include Coke, Sprite, Limca, Fanta and Thums Up.

The managing director said he planned to issue handbills to dealers with the corporation results.

But mayor Subrata Mukherjee said the corporation had not issued such a certificate. “We have not given them any certificate. If any civic official is found to have issued such a certificate, he will be dismissed,” he said.

“We will ask them to produce the certificate. If they fail to produce it, we will take legal action,” the mayor added.

Corporation sources said only three people knew of the report. Those in the know are the civic body’s public analyst Shankar Debnath, superintendent of the civic food laboratory, Subrata Bose and member, mayor-in-council (health) Pradip Ghosh.

Goenka said Coca-Cola products were safe, but admitted the presence of some toxic material in sludge at the plant. “We use strong detergents and soda ash to clean and sterilise the used bottles. But there is no lead and cadmium in our products. Whatever there is, it is in accordance with the law of the land,” he added.

Coca-Cola and Pepsi will appear before the board on Saturday to explain how toxic metals were found in their sludge.

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