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`Government decision will help cola firms'

By Our Staff Correspondent

NEW DELHI, DEC. 9. The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) has welcomed the recent Supreme Court ruling which said cola companies would have to specify the quantum of pesticide and chemical residue present, on the label of their products. The apex court decision to support the ruling of the Rajasthan High Court is an important step in the cause of public health and the consumer's right to know, a CSE release said here today.

But the Government was seeking to accommodate the cola companies' tactics to delay the standards for soft drinks, it alleged. It cited correspondence between soft drink major PepsiCo India Ltd and the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in this regard, the release said.

In February 2004, the Central Committee for Food Standards asked its sub-committee to decide on the standards for soft drinks as stipulated by the Joint Parliamentary Committee. The sub-committee decided to undertake a nationwide one-year monitoring of pesticide residue in soft drinks before finalising the standards. This, it said, would help collect data on these drinks, necessary for standard-setting.

`Bizarre, unscientific'

Describing the decision of the sub-committee as bizarre and completely unscientific, the CSE release said it was clear that globally the standards for processed commodities like soft drinks were not set on the basis of residue found in them but on the basis of pesticides legally allowed in different constituents of the products. Soft drinks contain only two major ingredients (89 per cent water and 10 per cent sugar) and therefore setting the standards involves deliberations on these constituents. The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), which has a committee comprising cola company representatives and others, has used this globally-agreed methodology for processed foods to come out with a draft standard.

"The bottom line is that even while the Ministry of Welfare has itself played into the hands of companies to delay the standards setting process, it is now keen to make sure that even the bodies that are working hard to protect consumer interests are not allowed to do so," it said.

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