The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) stands vindicated in its campaign against the two cola giants. In August 2003, it made public its findings that 12 brands of Pepsi
and Coca-Cola tested by it contained high levels of pesticide residues. The Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) set up to probe the issue has confirmed its findings.
The first JPC to probe a public health issue, it has severely indicted the government for years of inaction. It has "suddenly become alive" to the issue "only as a result of the findings of the NGO...rather than any systematic approach based on scientific studies", the JPC said, asking the government to formulate standards for aerated drinks.
The committee found the cola manufacturers’ explanation that franchisee bottlers made quality control difficult "unsatisfactory". It indicts the government for not drawing up "norms about quality and standards for potable water that is used by the soft drink manufacturers".
The probe has said that the ministry of water resources, with the help of state governments, should check extraction of ground and river water for commercial use.
The only criticism the JPC directed at the CSE was that it tested the samples in a non-accredited laboratory. But CSE director Sunita Narain says: "Nowhere is it said that our findings were wrong. We’ve been able to force the government to reach some important decisions about public health issues."
The cola companies have responded rather weakly. A Coke statement reads: "Our products already meet the science-based norms...and all our consumers can have full confidence in the safety of our products." Pepsi said, "We share the government’s interest in protecting the health of Indian consumers...with continued collaboration between the government, industry and the scientific community, the health and safety of Indian consumers can be ensured."