New study indicates pesticides 24 times higher than Bureau of Indian Standards norms



“The levels in some samples exceeded the BIS standards by 140 times for the deadly pesticide Lindane, a confirmed carcinogen” “Heptachlor, banned in India, was found in 71 per cent of the samples, at levels four times higher than BIS standards” “

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on Wednesday came out with a new report on the levels of pesticides in soft drinks available in the market.

The report indicated the presence of an average of three to five different pesticides in all the samples, 24 times higher than the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) norms, which have been finalised but not yet notified.

The latest CSE study is based on tests conducted on 57 samples of 11 soft drink brands from 25 different manufacturing plants of Coca-Cola and Pepsico, spread over 12 States.

The levels in some samples for instance, Coca-Cola bought in Kolkata exceeded the BIS standards by 140 times for the deadly pesticide Lindane, a confirmed carcinogen.

Similarly, a Coca-Cola sample manufactured in Thane contained 200 times more of the neurotoxin, Chlorpyrifos, than the BIS standard, said Sunita Narain of CSE releasing the report here.

Three years after the centre released its first findings on pesticide residue in soft drinks, the new study shows that nothing much has changed and soft drinks remain unsafe and unhealthy. Even the directions given by the Joint Parliamentary Committee have been disregarded: standards for safety have been finalised but blocked because of opposition by the companies, Ms. Narain alleged.

In 2003, the average level of pesticide residue in samples from Delhi was 34 times above the same BIS standard, but this time the CSE has found pesticide residue as high as 52 times in bottles brought in Kolkata and 42 times in bottles bought in Nainital and Gorakhpur. Similarly, bottles bought in Mumbai, manufactured in Thane and Nagpur, allegedly had residue 34 times above the BIS standard.

Heptachlor, banned in India, was allegedly found in 71 per cent of the samples, at levels four times higher than BIS standards.

The average amount of pesticide residue found in all the samples was 11.85 parts per billion (ppb) or 24 times higher than the BIS standards for total pesticides in soft drinks (0.5 ppb). Pepsi Cola contained 30 times higher residue on an average, while Coca-Cola contained 27 times higher than average.

Endorsed by JPC

The current study was conducted by the same Pollution Monitoring Laboratory of CSE that had tested the samples in 2003, and the methodology was endorsed by the JPC despite doubts raised by the cola companies over the veracity of the tests. This time further improvements had been made, and the laboratory now had ISO 9001:2000 quality management system accreditation and it was equipped with state-of-the-art GS-MS equipment, Ms. Narain said.

In February 2004, confirming the unsafe levels of pesticides in soft drinks, the JPC had directed the Government to set standards for these residues in the products. Since then, BIS has, in its sectional committee, met over 20 times to deliberate on the standards, and in October 2005 the standards were finalised.

Ms. Narain alleged that the final standards were being opposed by the Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry on the ground that more research needed to be done. In this respect, she quoted a letter written by the Union Health Secretary to his counterpart in the Ministry of Consumer Affairs. The letter was written on March 29, 2006 the day the standards were to be formally finalised. The standards were finalised, but not notified, Ms. Narain said.

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