|FIT TO DRINK?
New Delhi, Dec. 10:
Environmentalists have accused the Centre of bowing to pressure from
Coke and Pepsi and stalling a joint parliamentary committee’s (JPC’s)
recommendations on safety standards for soft drinks.
An action-taken report (ATR) placed in
Parliament yesterday by the ministry of health and family welfare showed
that it had sought second opinions on key suggestions or passed the buck
to other ministries.
The 15-member JPC, headed by Sharad Pawar,
was set up by the former A.B. Vajpayee regime following startling
revelations by the Delhi-based NGO, Centre for Science and Environment
(CSE), in 2003.
A CSE study had claimed that all soft
drinks brands sold by Coke and Pepsi contained pesticide residues above
permitted levels. It named 12 brands and identified primarily four toxic
pesticides and insecticides in them:
Lindane, DDT, Malathion and
CSE director Sunita Narain today said the
JPC’s crucial suggestion about fixing “stringent” standards for
carbonated beverages had not been implemented. The House panel had said
that “it is prudent to seek complete freedom from pesticide residues in
sweetened aerated water”.
The ministry, however, has sought a second
opinion from a little-known government panel. “The matter has been
referred to the National Level Expert Group to guide Pesticide Residues
Sub-Committee of CCFS (Central Committee for Food Standards) for
detailed examination and recommendations, which is awaited,” the ATR
There is no further mention of this
“expert group” or of how many times it has met, Narain said.
On the JPC’s call for monitoring of
effluents from the Coke factories at Palakkad and Plachimada, the ATR
merely said it was waiting for a reply from the Union ministry of
environment and forests.
On the need to control excessive
exploitation of groundwater by industries, the ATR said: “This relates
to the ministry of water resources and that ministry has not informed
the action-taken status.”
When it came to making the factories pay
for the groundwater, the ATR again passed the buck to the water
resources ministry. On the matter of providing consumers with
non-caffeinated alternatives, it was the ministry of industry that
hadn’t yet replied.
“This is an outright lie. This is not
under the purview of the ministry of industry. It is a sub-committee on
food additives in the ministry of health and the CCFS that is
responsible for this,” Narain said.
Where the JPC talks of controlling
pesticide levels in the sugar industry, the ATR said: “This relates to
the ministry of agriculture and it has no information of action taken.”