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Indian MPs demand Coke, Pepsi ban as firms reject toxic label
« on: August 08, 2006, 09:12:18 PM »
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NEW DELHI (AFP) - Indian MPs called for a ban on the sale of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, a day after a study said the giant US brands contained unacceptable levels of insecticides.
   
MPs joined ranks in parliament's lower house and called for the ban on the two soft drinks, which enjoy a virtual monopoly on cola sales in India.

"These companies are playing with the lives of millions and we can't ignore such warnings any more," said Vijay Kumar Malhotra of the main opposition Bharatiya Janata Party which later staged a walkout over the issue.

"The time has now come to ban both Pepsi and Coke," he said.

The regional Rashtriya Janata Dal, a coalition partner of the Congress-led government, also highlighted Wednesday's report by the privately-funded Centre for Science and Environment (CSE).

"Besides containing pesticides, these drinks are damaging our national heritage and we must ban them and market indigenous beverages made from yoghurt or milk," Dal MP Devendra Singh Yadav said.

The government's communist partners also attacked the global giants, labelling their products "slow poisoners."

"What sort of sponsorship has the government received so that it is not taking any step?" Marxist MP Mohammamed Salim shouted.

Others noted the study was the centre's third damning report on Pepsi and Coke soft drinks sold in India since 1993.

"We must do away with them this time," said independent MP A. Krishnaswamy.

The US companies joined forces to reject the study, which came a year after a similar one by the centre drew similar conclusions.

"Consumer safety is paramount to us. The soft drinks manufactured in India comply with stringent international norms and all applicable national regulations," the companies said in a statement.

Food Processing Minister Subodh Kant Sahay said he could not pass judgement on the issue as the environment centre had not yet provided the ministry with the study.

Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi tried to cool tempers, saying draft legislation on food safety awaited presidential assent.

CSE chief Sunita Narain denied suggestions the centre was waging a witchhunt against the firms, saying they were chosen for the study as they "have the lion's share" of India's market.

"Companies tell us pesticide levels in soft drinks are less than in milk and juice and ask us why we aren't testing them. We feel this is scientific juggling. Any pesticide residue in food items harms humans," she said.



 (source: AFP)