Aug. 9: The Left-ruled Kerala today became the first state to impose a blanket ban on Coca-Cola and Pepsi soft drinks. The state has banned the production, distribution and sale of the signature products of the two pillars of modern capitalism and foreign investment.
The ban covers only colas, not other drinks manufactured by the two multinationals, and will take immediate effect all over the state.
It also bars the actual production of the drinks, which has not yet been looked into by other states.
So far, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat and Karnataka have only selectively banned sale of soft drinks in schools, legislatures or government offices.
Kerala chief minister V.S. Achutanandan said the decision was based on studies that proved “soft drinks are harmful”. It was not clear if the “pesticide of cocktails” detected in recent cola samples was a deciding factor.
“We’ve based the decision on reports from government departments, scientific studies, court verdicts and the relentless struggle of the people against over-exploitation of water by the plants. Studies have proved soft drinks are harmful,” he said.
Sunita Narain of the Centre for Science and Environment had set the issue frothing after a study found three to five pesticides in samples from 25 plants across 12 states.
Although the pesticide content was on an average 24 times higher than fixed by the Bureau of Indian Standards, the matter is still in a grey area. The limits for pesticide residues in soft drinks have been finalised but are yet to be notified.
Coca-Cola and Pepsi, however, maintained their products were “absolutely safe”.
Reacting through the Indian Soft Drink Manufacturers’ Association, they said: “Our products… meet every safety standard set by food health and regulatory bodies in India and all over the world. We have not received any formal communication from the government… and we will comment once we do so.”
Although industry sources claimed the cola majors were mulling a legal battle, lawyer Shanti Bhusan said a state had the power to ban manufacture and sale of any food product under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act if it was harmful to health.
Government sources in Kerala said the Coke plant at Plachimada and the Pepsi unit at Pudussery, both in north Palakkad district, would be issued notices in a day or two.
The Coke plant has been shut for over two years because of an agitation led by tribals over groundwater.
Pepsi and Coke account for 90 per cent of the market share in Kerala, with 50 and 40 per cent respectively.