The Indian Economy Blog

August 9, 2006

Cola Con

Filed under: Business — Arjun Swarup @ 11:34 am

This so called pesticide cocktail in major colas is a cocktail indeed – a cocktail of politics, psuedo science, posturing and bad economics.

The background: The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) claimed, in August 2003, that colas contained unacceptably high levels of pesticides. This caused a furore, with a major backlash against Coke and Pepsi. A Joint Parliamentary Committe was formed to probe the issue, and to see how to best regulate the issue.

Three years hence, CSE have released another study (almost to the day, funnily enough), claiming that levels of pesticide in colas are still high, they are dangerous, and that the government and administration has been lethargic on this front, and not implemented standards. Cola firms continue to wreak havoc on social health and well-being.

This debate has many different aspects,  levels and sub-texts, but a few key points:

1) There is massive, widespread adulteration in virtually every food item consumed today in India. The levels of pesticide in coffee is 190,000 times, and in apples, 100,000 times, according to some estimates. By contrast, the levels in colas are twenty-four times.

2. One also needs to examine where the adulteration is coming from. The common perception is that the contamination is at the ground water level, and the colas are contaminated, albeit very minutely, due to the water content. However, this is far from the truth. Both Pepsi and Coke’s bottled water products, Aquafina and Kinley have not been found to contain pesticide. The pesticide content is due to the sugar, which is contaminated, like virtually every other agricultural product.

3. The other point raised is about norms or standards. The point I would like to make is that no matter which standards India follows (or formulates in future), the colas are the least contaminated, amongst all food and beverage products.

Up until now, the international norm is to fix the impurity content on the raw product. This covers all products in the market. CSE has claimed it would be better if pesticide levels were fixed for finished products, and labelled. It also claims that the government has not done so, due to pressure from industry.

This is a serious allegation, and such allegations are fairly easy to make. However, the truth is that, given that the worldwide precedent of fixing the standards on raw products,the health ministry has been handling this issue carefully, and not just rushing into a judgement.

4. I also find very strange, on part of the CSE, to use statistics for shock value. The CSE report has claimed that “pesticide content in colas are 24 times the acceptable levels”. 24 times of “what” acceptable level ? Parts per million ? Parts per billion ?

This might be argued to be freedom of expression, but when it comes to presenting scientific data to the general public, to my mind, this amounts to wilful misrepresentation.

Update1: Kishore Asthana has studied the cola controversy and done an analysis of the issue. Reproduced below are his views:

1. What is the big fuss about that Parliament is debating the issue and Indian states are banning Colas?

Let us see what are the implications for the customer if we assume that CSE figures of pesticides in Colas are correct:

Colas do indeed have pesticides, which is a fact CSE never tires of repeating. However, the quantum is so low compared to the other things that we consume, that the pesticides in Colas can be ignored, even assuming that CSE figures are correct. The following table shows how many bottles of Cola you have to drink to get the same amount of pesticide as you get by eating one egg, drinking a cup of tea, consuming a handful of rice or eating a couple of apples. These calculations assume that pesticides in Colas are as per CSE findings and the pesticides in other things are as per the maximum permissible standards as defined in the Rule 65 of the PFA rules 1955 of the Government of India. In the case of Meat, ithe permissible pesticide level is as per E.U. norms as we could not find any Indian standards for pesticides in Meat.

Column A gives the equivalent Cola bottles if we assume that Colas are adhering to the proposed BIS norm of 0.5 ppb. Column B is the no. of equivalent bottles if we assume that the CSE findings are accurate.


     To ingest same amount
If you consume    of pesticide you have to drink
300 gms of =  (No. of 300 ml Cola Bottles)
the following:        
     BIS  Actual  
       As per CSE  
1 Large Egg (100gms) =       3,853             163 bottles of cola
1 Cup Tea (100 ml) =       9,347             394 bottles of cola
A handful of rice (300gm) =     34,180          1,442 bottles of cola
Two apples (300 gms) =     30,200          1,274 bottles of cola
1 Large glass of milk =       6,560             277 bottles of cola
1 Large glass of lassi =       6,560             277 bottles of cola
300 gm rabdi =       6,560             277 bottles of cola
3 pieces of meat =     20,140             850 bottles of cola

The above is based on the specifications given below. It should be noted that there are no standards for pesticides in Colas in India as yet and the figure of 0.5 ppb is given only as a proposal pending with the government. All other figures are from Government of India’s Rule 65, PFA Rules 1955.


   Max  Actual
   permiss. Av.
   pesticide Pesticide
   BIS CSE Figure
Colas                  0.5 11.85
   (when decided)  
Eggs             5,780  
Tea           14,020  
Rice           17,090  
Apple           15,100  
Milk             3,280  
Lassi             3,280  
Milk Products             3,280  
Meat (E.U.)           10,070  
  Other than Cola, The figures are from PFA Rules 1955  

As you can see from the first chart, we are all wasting valuable time and effort on the wrong thing. Our focus should be on reducing pesticides in egg, tea, milk and other consumables, including ground water, which affect all of us. If someone tells you that if you drink one cup of tea, it will give you as much pesticide as 394 cups of cola, which one do you think would be the safer beverage? And are we focusing on tea? On eggs? On fruit or milk? No. CSE and our Parliament is busy trashing the drink which has the least amount of pesticide amongst all the things we consume. This is reason enough for us to put on our Sanity & Balance cape and jump into the fray.

2. Is CSE qualified to undertake the tests?

This is the second critical question. To the best of our understanding, there are only about 20 laboratories accredited by the National Accreditation Board to undertake tests. The CSE Lab did not have this NAB accreditation three years back and does not appear to have it now. When we personally asked Ms. Sunita Narain about NAB accreditation after the NDTV program yesterday they tried to divert us by saying that they have ISO 9000 accreditation. Even a travel agency can get ISO 9000 accreditation and it does not qualify them as a certified laboratory. When we insisted, she said she was too busy talking to other people to answer our question (a simple yes or no would have sufficed, but, obviously, when you do not have certification, you do not want to admit it).

3. Should we then believe their results?

Will we go for a blood test to a laboratory which is not licenced by the government? The CSE lab does not have NAB accreditation. Why should we listen to CSE at all?

Dr. Khandal, the highly reputed Director of the Sri Ram Laboratories has, in a TV interview categorically said that the equipment used at CSE cannot measure the level of Malathion which CSE claims to have measured with it. He also said that these results had not been re-validated by doing other tests, as was the norm. As such, the tests were not to be taken at face value.

Dr. Khandal then said that CSE have mentioned that they have used U.S. EPA protocols to test Colas. He pointed out that EPA has no protocols for Colas. They only have a protocol to test water. He said that if CSE has used this protocol to measure the pesticides in Colas then it is erronious, as the matrix of the test sample changes with the addition of the other ingredients and the protocol for testing water cannot be used for testing Colas. He said that test protocols for Milk cannot be used for testing butter. The CSE representative at this TV interview had no answer to Dr. Khandal’s questions. Based on all this, should we believe Dr. Khandal or Mrs. Sunita Narain, who does not have any qualification as a scientist?

The test results of the well-known and NAB accredited Central Food Research Institute Laboratory in Mysore and the Central Food Laboratory, Kolkatta show levels of pesticide in Colas which are very different from the results given by the unaccredited CSE Laboratory. Which one should we believe?

In an NDTV program yesterday, Ms. Narain said that the sample size of foreign Colas tested by CSE was just 2 bottles. As the scientists on the panel pointed out, on this basis she is not really qualified to make any comments at all about pesticides in foreign Colas vis a vis Indian Colas. Any good High School science student can tell you that the sample of two bottles is not a meaningful sample size, but CSE has no hesitation in announcing their comparison based on an analysis of a mere two bottles.

Update 2:Gautam John has a post on this subject on his blog.


  1. You may need to read the CSE report and their magazine Down to Earh if you want to know the real hazard and the technical details.
    CSE is not so dumb to release reports stating pesticide levels exceed 24 times or whatever without giving units of ppm or ppb unlike what you have pointed out.

    A line from the report says
    “Average concentration of chlorpyrifos in all 57 samples was 4.71 ppb, which is 47 times the BIS limit for the individual pesticide in soft drinks.”

    They have mentioned all details properly.
    its the general media which does superficial analysis and generalizes strange things, like, there is no problem with the water, but with sugar has pesticides.

    I sincerly request you to read the magazine Down to Earh and the CSE report on pesticides and modify your blog entry accordingly.

    Comment by prashant m — August 9, 2006 @ 12:53 pm

  2. Prashant,

    I did read the report. They have mentioned parts per billion, and that is what I find so strange, since globally, ACCEPTED levels are in parts per million ! They have found adulteration in parts per billion, which is still amongst the lowest amongst all foodstuffs, and if you extrapolate towards parts per million, even lower!

    As for the media making shock statements and not CSE, the statements about “scientific jugglery” and “24 times acceptable levels” were made by CSE staffers themselves.

    And the point about sugar and water is not a generalization. Water purification is possible, and is done extensively by manufacturers who use ground water, but for products like milk and sugar ?

    And lastly, CSE’s testing methods themselves have been disputed and debated by other private labs. This lab does not even have NABL accreditation. I didnt mention this point in my original post since the issue at hand here is the actual study and not CSE, but given that they have used a benchmark like parts per billion, which is so far unheard of, I would think their results need to be examined and tested by at least 3-4 other domestic agencies.

    Comment by Arjun — August 9, 2006 @ 2:05 pm

  3. Hi Arjun,

    I have a post up on the subject as well.

    Drop by…

    Bloody bakwaas this is.

    Comment by Bangalore Bytes — August 9, 2006 @ 3:41 pm

  4. [...] Arjun writes on The Indian Economy Blog This so called pesticide cocktail in major colas is a cocktail indeed – a cocktail of politics, psuedo science, posturing and bad economics. [...]

    Pingback by Krishworld Politics » Blog Archive » Libertarian Standards: If it goes against business, it is pseudo science — August 9, 2006 @ 3:55 pm

  5. Well…I do agree with the post mentioning that cola products are targeted because of politics. I also agree that these results needs to be tested by other labs also.

    What I find baffling is why should we drink something that does not cater to the level of pesticides set by our conntry? What ever be the reason of adulteration…let it is sugar, let it be water…why should we compromise….

    Trust me if the same things happens in a western world, they will be made to pay a fine, make to withdraw the whole stock or banned…why should we compromise?

    Comment by Balaji M — August 9, 2006 @ 4:03 pm

  6. Hi,

    Just wanted to know where these figures are from: “The levels of pesticide in coffee is 190,000 times, and in apples, 100,000 times…”.

    Comment by Shrabonti — August 9, 2006 @ 4:32 pm

  7. BalajiM: I agree with you that we should not compromise on our standards, but we shouldnt resort to grandstanding or immature politics either. We need strong, balanced regulation.

    I would like to point out though that in the US, which is an advanced ‘western’ country, the levels of contamination are quite high. This belief is quite widespread, but totally incorrect. I will update my post later tonight with more on this, along with some facts.


    These facts were quoted by Dr. Shikha Sharma. I will try and post the link to the actual report.

    Comment by Arjun — August 9, 2006 @ 5:02 pm

  8. [...] source NowPublic [...]

    Pingback by within / without » Blog Archive » Pesticides in Coca Cola and Pepsi — August 9, 2006 @ 5:19 pm

  9. [...] source NowPublic [...]

    Pingback by beehndev » Blog Archive » Pesticides in Coca Cola and Pepsi — August 9, 2006 @ 5:26 pm

  10. So the arguement is

    1. X is bad.
    2. Y is very very bad.
    3. People should talk about Y.
    4. People shouldn’t talk about X.

    I see

    Comment by Gaurav — August 9, 2006 @ 6:14 pm

  11. I think what Arjun means to say is that neither X nor Y are bad. I haven’t come across any scientific evidence that indicates that such insignificant levels of pesticide are harmful in any way.

    The comparison that Arjun makes serves to illustrate that cola companies are easy targets, and fit in with certain political ideologies. Sunita Narain would look fairly ridiculous if she asked people to stop drinking coffee or eating apples, but colas are a soft target.

    Comment by Amit Varma — August 9, 2006 @ 6:43 pm

  12. Yes Gaurav, that is the argument, but why do I sense sarcasm?

    Every minute we spend solving a less important problem is taken from time that could have been spent in solving a more important one. Every ounce of regulatory resources that are spent in chasing Cola companies is an ounce that could have been spent on going after the problem of contaminated food items. Every bit of public attention that is focused on the Cola companies is public attention that is not focused on the quality of basic foodstuff that the public eats.

    So what is wrong with insisting that we should get our priorities right and not even bother about the quality of our colas till we get the quality of our sugar correct?

    Comment by Ravikiran — August 9, 2006 @ 7:25 pm

  13. To add to the X v/s Y debate, it seems to me that Gaurav might have a point if X and Y were independent events. However, here, X and Y are very much interrelated: if Y (meaning contaminated sugar/groundwater) were not present, then X (contaminated cola) would not exist. At least, that seems to me to be the case. As such, one is entitled to ask that the focus be shifted to Y as that is the main problem.

    Comment by economist — August 9, 2006 @ 8:30 pm

  14. Anyone who thinks this is about cola and pesticides is utterly naive.

    This is the classic Manoj Kumar Syndrome on display: anything Western is bad for you. (Of course, colas are hardly a health drink, but surely there are things worse than a cola?)

    If colas are worthy of a ban, why can’t the Indian government just shut down all tobacco manufacturers and alcoholic beverage producers in India?

    Comment by km — August 9, 2006 @ 8:43 pm

  15. The report (yes I read it and the DTE article) does NOT mention any “error margins” (commonly called error bars in engineering/scientific reports). the instrumentation used will have certain limits to its accuracy- i.e. if it measures something to 1 ppb, then the error range may be + or – 0.1 or 0.2 (20%) and so on…. and hte first 5-6 pages of the report are just nonsense quoting CO2 is harmful from dodgy websites OR that coke crumbles your teeth – may be true but these claims hardly belong in a report supposedly focusing on the pesticides.

    and if CSE was really concerned about our health, how about taking a water sample, an Atta sample, and a sugar sample from ten different sites and measuring the pesticide/insecticide levels in these daily staples?

    andthen our supreme court shows its ignorance by asking for Coke’s so called secret recipe as if it will magically reveal an intentional suggested dose of pesticide or two.

    ignorant idiots.

    Comment by r s — August 9, 2006 @ 11:33 pm

  16. CSE is a smart organisation, and the only reason that CSE is a household name while (for instance) NEERI (National Environmental Engineering Research Institute) is not, is that CSE knows how to market itself well. It is obviously not too keen on accuracy; it puts more energy into selling its ideas rather than facts.

    That said, I think CSE is doing a great job of being an effective whistle-blower in a society where the environment is on no politician’s radar yet. I look at it this way: if CSE would have taken a groundwater sample from Palakkad district and found high pesticide content in it, no national TV channels would have covered it, and likely we wouldnt be talking about it. By packaging (pun intended) those pesticides in a Coke bottle, CSE had made sure that the world takes notice. Some might argue that CSE is delivering too much bath water with the baby, but I think the fact that many people now know that there are pesticides in their groundwater is proof enough that CSE’s message has come across.

    Comment by Etlamatey — August 10, 2006 @ 12:13 am

  17. [...] The cola wars are heating up although Pepsi and Coke are on the same side this time. New evidence has been found regarding the adulterating ingredient. Arjun at The Indian Economy Blog explains that it may actually be more harmful to drink coffee or eat apples. [...]

    Pingback by DesiPundit » Archives » Cola Con — August 10, 2006 @ 1:24 am

  18. Hi Arjun,

    Thanks for pointing out the US situation to me though I would like to know the source of your knowledge.

    There was a recent report that there was some fever outbreak in the UK because of some substance in Cadbury. That is the biggest choclate selling brand. They were made to withdraw all the choclates costing a coll 2 million pounds from the market.

    I would not really beleive if it is said that there is a huge apathy in the west.

    I rekon every Cola company here needs to maintain a minimun standard set by the european union. Non adherence is definitely not an option.

    Comment by Balaji M — August 10, 2006 @ 3:33 am

  19. Ravikiran,

    You are assuming a “perfect scenario” when you say media concentrating on cola issue takes away the oppurtunity on focussing on important issues.

    But there never occurs a “perfect scenario”. I feel the attention is on cola companies rather than even worse issues (eg : Ganguly-Dalmia, Abishek-Ash etc)

    Anyway, Colas are not good for health so it doesn’t make sense to support the cola companies

    And there is no strong reason to believe that CSE has an ulterior motive with colas.

    Arjun = Its hard to believe that you have read the report when you make statements such as

    >>CSE report has claimed that “pesticide content in colas are 24 >>times the acceptable levels”. 24 times of “what” acceptable level ?

    they have mentioned clearly in the report the EU and BIS standards in parts per billion terms. It doesnt matter if its ppm or ppb, in an absolute level they are 24 times higher !!

    Comment by Benny — August 10, 2006 @ 3:51 am

  20. “and if you extrapolate towards parts per million, even lower!”

    Excellent Math, Arjun.

    Really super cool find. A pulitzer for you ?

    Comment by Benny — August 10, 2006 @ 3:55 am

  21. These facts were quoted by Dr. Shikha Sharma. I will try and post the link to the actual report.


    could you dig up this report please… would like to read the report..


    Comment by bala — August 10, 2006 @ 8:16 am

  22. It’s a relevant point that you make, Arjun. Good post.

    Comment by witnwisdumb — August 10, 2006 @ 8:36 am

  23. [...] India – Cola Con “This so called pesticide cocktail in major colas is a cocktail indeed – a cocktail of politics, psuedo science, posturing and ba economics” [...]

    Pingback by AsiaPundit » Blog Archive » links for 2006-08-10 — August 10, 2006 @ 9:39 am

  24. Ravi,

    If you want to talk about Y is anyone stopping you ?
    Why you must insist that people stop talking about X.
    Sorry but public discourse is not a zero sum game.

    In real world multiple issues vie for eyeballs, one has to live with it.

    And by the way I agree that this cola kerfuffle is because cola companies are easy target for media and for politicians to grab headlines

    My objection is

    1. Just because something is less severe it can not be dismissed with a gesture of hand (figuratively speaking), instead a cogent arguement can be made to shift the focus (which economist has done in this comment), how the arguement is put forward is important.

    2. Levelling charge of pseudo -science without substantiating it with any proof.

    Amit Varma,

    Do the scientific evidence you have come across put any limit to pesticide content


    Comment by Gaurav — August 10, 2006 @ 10:33 am

  25. In previous comment I should have said “public discourse is not a one track event”.

    Comment by Gaurav — August 10, 2006 @ 12:26 pm

  26. “Do the scientific evidence you have come across put any limit to pesticide content?”

    The burden of proof is not on me. If you claim that the amount of pesticide in colas is harmful, you show me the evidence.

    Comment by amit varma — August 10, 2006 @ 12:42 pm

  27. Well I have CSE report, don’t I ?

    Comment by Gaurav — August 10, 2006 @ 12:56 pm

  28. Why not use X to focus attention on Y ? Why isnt that a positive outcome? Maybe the soft targets could lead to the harder ones… The Cola Cos would definetly be strong in their defense. And that would probably shift focus on the primary issues. I believe we are no longer in the license raj, where the Cola Cos could be ousted with ease. And the Indian market for the soft drinks isnt something meagre enough to be given up so readily. Its when accredited labs in the country suffer lapses of stringent control that the CSEs come up with results that bring the media focus on them. The same study should have been conducted by a Public sector lab and the results should have been indisputably contrary to the CSEs… When everyone lacks credibility, things do get a little sticky.

    Comment by cuthbert — August 10, 2006 @ 2:31 pm

  29. “Why not use X to focus attention on Y”

    Um.. Why not focus on Y directly? If that was the intention, then it has spectacularly backfired, because governments all over the country are going about banning coke and pepsi, while water continues to stay contaminated.

    Comment by Ravikiran — August 10, 2006 @ 2:51 pm

  30. Excellent! Thanks a million for those details!

    Comment by witnwisdumb — August 10, 2006 @ 5:11 pm

  31. Incidentally Gaurav, my last comment is also an answer to your claim that “public discourse is not a zero-sum game”. If you are making the claim that public discourse is a positive-sum game, you will have to prove that somehow focusing on X will lead to more attention on Y than if CSE had simply focused on Y. Are you arguing that this debate:

    “Your basic foodstuff and the water you drink is heavily contaminated with pesticides!”

    “Holy s@#t! Let’s do something about it!”

    would have been less productive than

    “Your coke and pepsi are contaminated!”
    “Holy s@#t! Let’s blame the evil multinationals”

    “Noooo! It is the food and water that is contaminated”

    “You are shilling for the MNCs!”


    If anything, the whole debate is a negative-sum game.

    Comment by Ravikiran — August 10, 2006 @ 9:58 pm

  32. This is from CSE

    Comment by sun — August 10, 2006 @ 11:50 pm

  33. I was never a good science student hence do’nt know what sample size is meaningful.But i have not yet found this in tea,coffee,rice or eggs

    Pepsi and Coke,these are global brands and considering their phenomenal popularity among India’s rural masses CSE is fully justified in it’s actions

    Comment by sun — August 11, 2006 @ 12:04 am

  34. Hi,
    But where is the protocol for Beverage testing and Standards for Beverages. Do you think CSE and our stupid BIS is in a better Position than USEPA / EU to set satndards for Beverages. In most cases they simply copy USEPA / EU methods in to Indian methods.

    FIRST LET ME SAY THIS> CSE used test protocols of Water to test BEVERAGE.
    Second> then results (Accurate or inaccurate) of Beverage which contains one or more componenets compared againest a standard which is purely water
    Thrid> Normally when test samples that generate huge impact you have to maintain Counter samples (even PFA do that)i.e you have to collect 3 samples at the same time, same batch etc and One sample to be used for testing.Incase there is a dispue or revalidation the rest can be tested in a third party lab in the presnce of both the representatives. But CSE simply testing and announcing results with out following any of these norms. it is the best way to escape form sceinific scrutiny
    Last One: Many Public interest organizations normally file a complaint to the concerned Regulatory authority / Court with the supports so that next course of action will be initiated. BUT CSE simply releasing the reports press without any compalint. This is because once a leagal / official complaint made CSE is laible to face the actual acid test by officially reveal all truths which could be againest them


    Comment by Uday Yalamarthy — August 11, 2006 @ 12:26 am

    “Arrogance and Impunity – Coca-Cola in India” by Amit Srivastava

    Comment by Puru — August 11, 2006 @ 12:54 am

  36. [...] Arjun writes in The Indian Economy Blog that “This so called pesticide cocktail in major colas is a cocktail indeed – a cocktail of politics, psuedo science, posturing and bad economics.” Read his post “Cola Can,” to find out what he has to say on this subject. [...]

    Pingback by Kamla Bhatt » Global Voices: India in Blog Posts — August 11, 2006 @ 3:06 am

  37. I guess there is probably some political motivation behind all this.

    But even if that is true unless the scientific evidence put forth by CSE is questionable there can be some merit in the accusation. In my opinion PPM and PPB argument sounds ridiculous. It is just a division by 1000. Why would the standards change when converted from PPM to PPB? Can someone explain that!

    Coming back to the point – Even if it is true that the colas are contaminated banning them is definitely not the right solution. Enforcing the benchmark would be the right solution. According to the discussion I get a feel that the contamination level is high because of contaminated sugar. I am sure that colas can be produced without the contaminated sugar as well – with corn syrup that is imported etc. The point is – it is probably possible to produce colas that are more environment friendly than today. But that will increase the cost of colas substantially and might make the cola business unattractive in India! That’s where it will get difficult.
    The government will have to make a decision of either increasing the acceptable contamination level so that all colas at their current level satisfy the criteria or they would have to increase enforcement which would increase the cola prices substantially resulting in less production, loss of tax revenue, less consumption, less employment, loss of jobs, closed bottling plants etc. Benefits – better health and may be a marginal increase in life expectancy. If we can not justify the benefits then there is no case for reducing contamination level!

    The other alternative can be forcing the colas to print the contamination level on the bottle and possible side effects.

    I think the government ought to think about this for all the products not just colas.

    My guess (without any statistical study) is that the optimum equilibrium for a country like India would be to let the colas sell at the current level by modifying the standards and may be have phased plan for not just colas but all food items to become more environment friendly over a 5 to 10 years time frame.

    Although to be fair to CSE, the mass appeal of such movements has something to do with lack of corporate liability enforcement in India.

    One thing I believe is that in a country like India, corporate liability for massive screw ups isn’t enforced properly. Union carbide is a good example and till today I have yet to see CEOs facing jail time because of screw ups or a company calling back a whole product line because of faulty products.

    Unless we have proper checks and balances in pace where the public at large doesn’t think of corporations as evil or have some confidence in the justice system for punishing the corporations for screw-up’s we should expect such a ridiculous or disproportionate reaction.

    Comment by ik — August 11, 2006 @ 3:27 am

  38. It seems that even US Food and drug administration uses the test protocols of water to test soft drinks.
    “Renewed concerns about benzen’s presence in soft drinks have grown since a Food and drug administration (FDA) scientist revealed to in February that recent tests had again found some soft drinks with benzene above the maximum level considered safe in US tap water”
    I will appreciate if the readers,who has the knowledge of the subject,could explain

    Comment by sun — August 11, 2006 @ 7:53 am

  39. ur saying coke is bad but coffee is still ur argument is based on something much worse then coke, not why coke has these pesticides.
    aren’t they multinational company. they must have some standard. even if water is contaminated( which i am sure abt it ) don’t they have a process to elimate/decrease those ppm.

    ur argument is X is bad but Y is worse – now thats a typical indian reaction

    Comment by pamthree — August 11, 2006 @ 8:19 am

  40. Amit, you right on the pesticides standards. DDT is a classic case – it was banned in 1972 because of testing in lab rats – it has never been proven to toxic to humans. Untold number of people died with the spread of malaria because of DDT ban. Fortunately GOI has not banned it when it comes to mosquito control (apparently it is banned for agriculture use). But call for banning DDT (and other pesticides) continues – just this week Indian Express editorialized so.

    These are lab rats driven standards set by US FDA usually less stringent than lab rats driven standards set by US EPA. Beyound an occasional paper, I doubt Indian agencies do any research on whether pesticides used by Indian farmers are harmful to people. Imagine a ban on pesticides – Vidharbha farmer suicides would just be a foreword. We just presume pesticides are harmful (just like genetically modified food) before we know they are.

    Comment by Chandra — August 11, 2006 @ 9:55 am

  41. DO YOU THING COKE AND PEPSI ARE NOT TREATING WATER and NOT FOLLOWING ETHICS etc. It is very easy to tell that some one is not doing some thing. We want every thing perfect that others do and nothing required from our part.
    The hard reality is unless you stop using pesticides completely OR use only non residual pesticides (Which is very costly and our poor farmers can not afford) you can’t get away the residues.
    No treatment process in the world will remove resudual persticides completely and there are many limitation and geographical variations. So despite of the stringent treatment process the content may vary based on seasonality, Usage pattern etc. Comapnies set up infrastructure to treat 100% and plus some additional %age. It is impossible to check Pesticide residue on daily basis and adjust your process.
    As we do not have any control on Pesticide usase the only thing we do is just criticise some one who is doing a good job and ask them to do more and more, but leave the rest of foods untoutched

    GOVTs get away from their responsibility by diverting us by imposing ban on Safer Cool drinks so that they get away from the responsibility of supplyng Good drinking Water
    We the best fools of india ask, demand the government to ban Colas instead of ask the government to include drinking water in PFA act so that all municipalities are liable to face a criminal charge if their water supply does not meet Pesticide standard for drinking Water


    Comment by Uday Yalamarthy — August 11, 2006 @ 11:19 am

  42. I haven’t read all the comments so somebody might have raised these issues.

    1) Coffee, Apples etc are exported to european and US markets. So, there is no double standards. So these guys are actually questioning the standards set by scientific study!
    2) coffee, apples etc are not made in factories. Their geography and volume is so large that they are very difficult to control. In constast, pepsi, cokes are very centralized and easy to control.
    3)The charts are very interesting. It is a fact that if you drink around 5 liters of pepsi or coke in two hours, you will die. But never heard anybody dead because of eating two apples in two hours (equivalent of hundreds of lts of coke and pepsi as per chart). Any way, do you have any charts suggesting how many bottles of pepsi or coke you have to consume inorder to gain same nutritional values as an apple?
    3)Coffee , apples are not the products which are sold at Rs 10/- when it takes only Rs 1/- to produce.

    Comment by adi — August 11, 2006 @ 11:20 am

  43. Please out of your mindset that Agricultural products are difficult to control and factory made can be controlled.

    The hard fact is you have to control the agricultural practices so that the pesticides used will not pass to the other food chains.
    Only 10-15% of pesticides sprayed will be used for actual activity and rest will go to water and remains in the water.

    That is why EU & USA banned residual pesticides (Residual pesticides unlike non residual pesticides remain in the water forever) where as India is long way to that phase.

    People arguing about EU norms should answer that EU banned all residual pesticides more than 15 years back and EU imposes all kinds of restriction to spray non-residual pesticides also. So where are we now? During green revolution we used these pesticides left & right and still we are doing the same (Iam not discussing Green revolution is good / bad. It is definitely good)

    So how can you remove the residual pesticide where the current technology has it’s own limitations. What we are asking is “There are some controls already in place with Coke and Pepsi. You can see this as the difference between normal drink water and Soft drink is more than 1000 times in pesticide content. That means there is a treatment happening.

    But why we are after Colas and why we are not asking others to set Atleast some kind of process and reduce their content.

    Secondly who said the production cost of a soft drink is one rupee. Do you have any exposure to Manufacturing industry? There are many costs involved in any product apart from just ingredients. The Salaries, Cost to maintain machinery, Cost to maintain Hygiene and cleanliness, Cost of testing, Taxes, transport, dealer margins, vending equipment, Packaging cost etc. It is very easy to tell that it costs only a rupee but it is not the case

    Comment by Uday Yalamarthy — August 11, 2006 @ 11:43 am

  44. I think the first and biggest question has been tackled at length already.

    i think the other two are remaining:

    1)What about the credentials of CSE?

    CSE has to respond to this coz i want to believe the CSE.

    2)The other agencies that released reports on the COLAs?Where are they published?

    Definitely not online.Does anyone here have an idea how to make them available.

    Note:i think the CSE has atleast opened a discussion on a topic that requires a lot of thought and forward MOVEMENT.

    Comment by ajoy — August 11, 2006 @ 11:49 am

  45. Hi Arjun,

    “Both Pepsi and Coke’s bottled water products, Aquafina and Kinley have not been found to contain pesticide. The pesticide content is due to the sugar, which is contaminated, like virtually every other agricultural product”

    What is your for this finding that the contamination comes from the sugar?

    Also, is mineral water bottled at the same locations as the colas? Probably not, right? I believe it’s usually bottled at source, at the mountain streams, where pesticide contamination in the water may be much smaller.

    Comment by Sharad — August 11, 2006 @ 11:55 am

  46. Hi Sharad,
    There is a clear differnce between minaral water and Packaged drinking water. What we have in india is Packaged drinking water which uses same water as Soft drinks and Treat them in accordance with IS 14543 i.e Packaged drinking water standards. Even soft drinks are also following the same standard as Packaged drinking water. So there are complex issues involved. As some one rightly said the credibility of CSE is very important here. CSE is simple playing HIDE & SEEK game. Neighter it is sumitting it’s report to concerned regulatory agencies as compliant or nor filing a PIL that most NGOs do. It is simply going to media as there no one ask and take responsibility if the reports / test methods are wrong. If they file a complaint officially, then they are responsible to prove the reports are correct. THAT IS THE WHOLE CRUX of the ISSUE

    Comment by Uday Yalamarthy — August 11, 2006 @ 12:28 pm

  47. @Uday-
    You obivously misunderstood when i said agri product is difficult to control. i was referring to actual ground situation in India. Definitly all the steps you have mentioned should be taken. Just compare doing all this and purifying raw materials in coke or pepsi plant, u might understand. Also, it is a lot more easier to control at factories as raw materials are centrally processed. You have a valid point that current technologies might not be able to that. In that case, the onus is on these companies to come out with data regarding amount of pesticides in raw material, process used to purify them etc. Have they come out with any such data yet?

    I am after colas because they can do it but still they are not doing it. They are doing it in US and EU but not in INDIA. If they find water and sugar of india polluted, they are free to import it from cleaner countries like US and Europe. After all, their secret formulae are imported from those countries any way.

    And people asking for credibilities of CSE, Why do we need that? What are the credibilities of the Cala companies? Nobody disputed the FACT of CSE finding is sufficient to prove their credibility.

    And lastly, what i said Rs 1/- was certailnly not true, I was just giving a comparision. But considering all the costs, I am certain that it will cost them not more than 3 Rs/- for what they sell for Rs 10. Their profitability is around 150 % which I am sure of.

    Comment by adi — August 11, 2006 @ 1:30 pm

  48. Adi,

    Your concern for the *rich* of India is truly touching. Presumably, once Coke/Pepsi meet your requirements – by importing if necessary “pure” water from abroad – the rich can continue drinking their (pesticide-free) Coke/Pepsi, albeit at a higher price. Meanwhile, the non-Coke/Pepsi drinking poor can continue drinking contaminated water. They don’t deserve any better, do they?

    Question: Why this concern over a product which is consumed by a very limited section of the Indian population? Note the alacrity with which various state governments have moved to ban Coke/Pepsi. Can we expect our beloved governments to display a fraction of this concern for things like better schools, better roads, a more efficient judicial system and so on? The disparity in concern speaks volumes for how our governments, while mouthing very “pro-poor” rhetoric pursue agendas which are very elitist.

    Comment by economist — August 11, 2006 @ 3:41 pm

  49. [...] Coke, Pepsi, and pesticide 9 08 2006 Arjun Swarup makes an impressive debut on the Indian Economy Blog with a post titled “Cola Con,” in which he points out: There is massive, widespread adulteration in virtually every food item consumed today in India. The levels of pesticide in coffee is 190,000 times, and in apples, 100,000 times, according to some estimates. By contrast, the levels in colas are twenty-four times [emphasis in original]. [...]

    Pingback by Desi Blah » Coke, Pepsi, and pesticide — August 11, 2006 @ 4:48 pm


    Comment by Bangalore Bytes — August 11, 2006 @ 5:15 pm

  51. @economist
    If i pick the fallacies in your comment, it would be a mile long

    dont make it an issue of rich and poor. It is an issue of an MNC seeing Indians inferior to US and EU citizens. Their “India mein sab chalta hai” attitude. and main thing is, the pollution in this case comes from the same poor person who do not drink pepsi or cola ( as you said).

    And do you think pepsi and cola are only consumed by rich? Just go out and have a talk with some guys who you think are poor.

    Then, did I ever said GOI should not take steps for providing clean drinking water or something like that? if you find any indications like that from my comments, point it out. I will apolizise.

    But on a curious question, if a person is rich (i suppose thats not a crime) does he forfeit every right of a citizen?

    Comment by adi — August 11, 2006 @ 7:25 pm

  52. Adi, the economist’s point was that if Coke and Pepsi had to import sugar and water to make their drinks, only the rich would be able to afford it.

    And rich people do have rights, but I don’t think anyone has a right to deny a person the choice of a drink that is purer than the water he drinks, just because the purer drink is not perfectly pure.

    Comment by Ravikiran — August 11, 2006 @ 7:42 pm

  53. > If i pick the fallacies in your comment, it would be a mile long

    Do go ahead. I would appreciate it.

    > dont make it an issue of rich and poor. It is an issue of an MNC seeing
    > Indians inferior to US and EU citizens. Their “India mein sab chalta hai”
    > attitude. and main thing is, the pollution in this case comes from the same
    > poor person who do not drink pepsi or cola ( as you said).

    If the MNC thinks that Indian are inferior, so what? Why is that relevant? Also, Coke/Pepsi have many Indian executives – the last time I checked, the CEO of PepsiCo was Indra Nooyi, very much a desi – are you accusing all of them of subscribing to this ideology? MNCs like other companies are in the business of making profits, not the business of racism. And what do you mean by “pollution in this case comes from the same poor person who do not drink pepsi or cola”?

    “India mein sab chalta hai” is adopted by many *Indian* companies also (including our public sector enterprises), so what makes Coke and Pepsi different? Your attitude seems to amount to saying that it is okay for Indians to be poisoned so long as it is done by Indian companies. Get this: there is no evidence that MNCs are any more evil than our own beloved desi companies. If there is such evidence, please do let all on the forum have it. We will all be grateful.

    > Then, did I ever said GOI should not take steps for providing clean drinking
    > water or something like that? if you find any indications like that from my
    > comments, point it out. I will apolizise.

    The question is, why the focus on Coke and Pepsi? Targeting Coke/Pepsi is a wrong strategy because it shifts the focus away from something which should be addressed – the pollution of groundwater which is not the fault of any MNC, World Bank or IMF. It is our own, very indigenous mess, one which *we* have to put right.

    From the “evidence” submitted so far, I can only conclude that Coke/Pepsi are at best guilty of being unethical – using Indian laws to their benefit. But this much is done by many Indian companies also.

    Targeting Coke/Pepsi is part of an ideology which holds that MNCs as part “globalisation” are “bad”. You are welcome to this ideology which is very popular in many parts of India, but do state it as such rather than hiding being “science”.

    Lastly, the rich don’t cede any rights by virtue of being rich, but the issue is why our governments are overtly concerned about them. The issue about Coke is one such – incidentally, no one is claiming that the poor don’t consume it at all but most of the consumption is by the middle, upper middle and the rich. Surely in our country, it ought to be the concerns of the poor which should get more attention. My point – which you don’t address – is that even though our governments mouth “pro-poor” rhetoric, their actions are often to the contrary.

    Your arguments are flawed but of course, I am sure you are not going to stop here. Looking forward to more flawed arguments from you.

    Comment by economist — August 11, 2006 @ 8:00 pm

  54. I think I see both points of view. While I think that the fact that Coke and Pepsi have brought down the levels of pesticides to such an extent is commendable, I don’t think Coke and Pepsi should be allowed to flout the laws with impunity.

    I think the best solution might be for Coke and Pepsi to sell a drink that, in fact, adheres to the pesticide standards, and price at whatever level they want. I think this will end up requiring import of sugar, and would almost definitely be prohibitively expensive for the poor.

    Call me a socialist, but in the interests of those that are not so well-off and those that would not be able to afford Coke and Pepsi at higher prices, I propose that Coke and Pepsi continue to sell their drinks at lower prices as long as they adhere to certain standards that are comparable to the standards of naturally occuring water. I think it is unfair that the poor should be denied the choice of having clean drinking water.

    Comment by Doodad — August 11, 2006 @ 8:08 pm

  55. And BTW, this proposal is only relevant after standards for pesticides in Colas in India are established. Until then, I am not sure if it is fair to ask Coke and Pepsi to do anything.

    Comment by Doodad — August 11, 2006 @ 8:14 pm

  56. Essentially, rather than proposing one standard for colas, there ought to be two standards. Colas are free to adhere to either standard. They must correctly publish which standard they adhere to, or face penalties.

    There might be those who say that there ought not to be ANY standards for colas, since it is a finished product. I am personally not sympathetic to that poiont of view, since I think the definition of a finished product is somewhat ambiguous. Is lassi a finished product? Is pasteurized sweetened milk a finished product? Further, given that colas have no significant health benefits, it is reasonable for government to at least ensure that they don’t pose any significant health risks.

    Comment by Doodad — August 11, 2006 @ 8:21 pm

  57. Did I just own this discussion? I think I did. Woot, woot!

    Your friendly neighborhood standards guy

    Comment by Doodad — August 11, 2006 @ 8:40 pm

  58. 3)The charts are very interesting. It is a fact that if you drink around 5 liters of pepsi or coke in two hours, you will die. But never heard anybody dead because of eating two apples in two hours (equivalent of hundreds of lts of coke and pepsi as per chart). Any way, do you have any charts suggesting how many bottles of pepsi or coke you have to consume inorder to gain same nutritional values as an apple?

    IMHO, I think the citation of the information point that “if you drink around 5 liters of pepsi in two hours, you will die” is, I think, not very relevant to the discussio. According to my research, if you swallow ONE Mentos and drink ONE bottle of coke, there is a possibility that stomach cannot take it. This has to do with chemical reactions in the body. So should we ban Mentos too?

    Comment by Doodad — August 11, 2006 @ 9:44 pm

  59. BTW click on the video linked with the word ‘research’. It is hilarious.

    Comment by Doodad — August 11, 2006 @ 9:45 pm

  60. Hi Adi & Other Freiends,
    I was afraid of the commeents by some of our freiend on Violating law by Coke and Pepsi. Let me clarify that there is treatment process to reduce the pesticide content to certain level. I thibk both these comapnies adopted these technologies. The reason I see here is the actual water contains atleast more than 10000 times pesticide than what we see in a beverage. That mean there is a reduction process. But may not be to that extent what we are taking about( Surely meeting Water standards. The issue here is these companies are meeting standards in terms of Water. But failing in Beverages.

    Beverage Contains two or more Components like Sugar & Water & Falvour. SO 1+1+1=3 the when we say the standard for each of these items is 1 the beverage standard should be between 1 and 3 based on theie proportion. But we are doing is testing of Beverage and announcing the amount of pesticide is X amount higher (Comparing with water standard)


    Some one is saying the companies should follow their OWN standard in the absence of a standrad by GOVT. They are already meting the existing standards for various componenets as applicable. But both the testmethods and standards comparision are wrong. SO WE SHOULD FIRST DEFINE WHAT IS THE PROTOCOL AND STANDARDS AND THEN ASK THE COMAPNIES TO ADHER. IF NOT FOLLOWED THROW THEM AWAY

    Comment by Uday Yalamarthy — August 12, 2006 @ 9:54 am

  61. Hi,
    Other aspect I want cover is Indian Context and some one said they are in a mode of SUB KUCH CHALTA”

    Let me share my experience: ON QUALITY
    There are many indian Soft drink comapnies and Water companies. Part of my job I visited most of these facilities. The hard reality is None of these indian companies do not have even CRITICAL LAB equipments. Only one shift staff avaialble but running three shift taking daily labour. The Hygiene conditions you don’t beleive, you will never drink again. ON THE CONTRARY these Major Jaints facilities are clean and much better than any of these

    WE ALL TALK MUCH ABOUT ISI branding on Water bottles. What I found is most of the Local Water plants the situation is Deto as above. I dont see a single external Lab test report (Like from VIMTA, SRIRAM, SGS) etc for water and the process lapses are many

    My Experience on: ENVIRONMENT


    Comment by Uday Yalamarthy — August 12, 2006 @ 10:12 am

  62. Cola Con: Why is the CSE so coy?…

    asdfsaf asfsaf asfsad fs fds fsad fdsa fdsaf ds fsd fdsf adsf…

    Trackback by Anonymous — August 12, 2006 @ 8:38 pm

  63. Gurcharan Das also writes about the idiocy of this brouhaha at

    Comment by Himanshu Nautiyal — August 13, 2006 @ 6:06 pm

  64. @Economy
    Yeah. my cooments are flawed. Seems only comeents which endorse your’s aren’t.

    You seem to be highly prejuidized who ever propogates the ban has an ideology or leftist leaning, if i am not wrong. but i am a strong opponent of that ideology. MNC are not bad, they are not good either. As someone said, they are here for profit as other companies. we should not let them profit by harming us, Indians either rich or poor.

    The workrs are Indians, i fully agree. But the owners are not. The ideology of workers does not count.

    I said pollution comes frm poor as they are the ones who are spraying pesticides, which is polluting the ground water. Imagene govt banning pesticides in india….. again that anti-poor slogan will come, may be even from you.

    About shifting of attention from real problem, many people already answered this question.

    Nobody has to be denied any right. What i was asking was GOI has the resposibility to make sure that companies should maintain laws of the land. Either govt should loosen the regulations to meet current products or the companies should improve their products to meet the current standards. if any company feels it is not possible maintain standards by using Indian raw materials, they are free to import from other countries.

    Adi rests,

    Comment by adi — August 14, 2006 @ 11:56 am

  65. I must confess that I had taken only a cursory look at the CSE article (available online at the Down to Earth website) but having taken a look, I am still unconvinced. Firstly, CSE concedes that other food articles contain more pesticides but argue that “Pesticide residues from essential food items is acceptable. But since soft drinks contain no nutritional value, they should be completely free from pesticides.”

    There are many products of dubious nutritional value: how about hard drinks, cigarettes, much of the menu in McDonalds, potato chips etc. Why is the concern restricted to soft drinks? I guess CSE will argue that products like hard drinks and cigarettes are not consumed by children but then how about potato chips? If the argument is that consumable items with little nutrition value should not contain pesticides, then, to be consistent, one must impose the same requirements on a range of other products.

    The CSE article goes on to state that “…the pesticide exposure of Indians already exceeds the ADI many times (see `A refreshing guide to food safety’, Down to Earth, December 31, 2003).” [Note: ADI=acceptable daily intake].

    If this is indeed the case, then the focus on Colas is even less convincing. Is the pesticide exposure of Indians, already more than permissible, going to come down significantly if the Cola companies meet the conditions that CSE demands – namely, that their products meet the final product standards?

    To be fair, I note that CSE is quite harsh on the GoI also, basically accusing our politicians and bureaucrats of being soft of the soft drink companies. But I still cannot help feel that something else – namely, an ideology which sees the Cola products as “undesirable” – lies behind the campaign. CSE is entitled to this view but I suppose we also have the right to resist such paternalism.

    Personally, knowing that I am already consuming more than the daily acceptable level of pesticide, I am quite willing to take my chances with the pesticide-flavoured Cola. I figure that the additional pesticide can’t make things worse but the cola does fill a need – quench my thirst on a hot Delhi afternoon. It seems a gamble more than worth taking when facing 40 degrees centigrade heat.

    Comment by economist — August 14, 2006 @ 7:55 pm

  66. If any one watched NDTV last night there is a clue Here. Coca-Cola released CSL London lab reports conforming the Pestiide residue limits are well with in safety norms. The intersting thing here is when asked CSE agreed that what CSL reported is correct. But as the samples sent by COKE the report is not acceptable. HERE THE SOME THING TO KNOW FROM CSE IS



    IS THERE ANY MOTIVE BEHIND THIS?????????????????????????????????????

    Comment by Uday Yalamarthy — August 15, 2006 @ 10:08 am

  67. Excellent post and interesting discussion. The post would have been made even stronger if more references had been provided. Here is something I had written on the same issue.

    Comment by Sid — August 15, 2006 @ 9:06 pm

  68. Uday — thanks for your comments. A suggestion: can you pls write in sentence case instead of CAPS — the latter is difficult to read, and also, gives us the impression that you’re screaming..

    Comment by Prashant Kothari — August 16, 2006 @ 8:36 pm

  69. Prashanth,
    Ya! agreed. Later I realized the difficulty in reading. Thanx for the suggestion

    Comment by Uday Yalamarthy — August 16, 2006 @ 8:45 pm

  70. Hello colas if u r listening ,
    I have only two questions here ,
    1.Lets agree that the comman ingredients used in preparing the cola are adultered eg: ground water ,sugar ,X,Y,Z . My question is then “why the hell Colas use them ?”. Why should they promote the finished product when the basic items used are not fit for consumption ? does this mean that colas never care for the health of consumers ,just promote like a pacca business wala ??.This looks like dirty american policy ,if they lose in vietnam war kill the vietnemese with colas …ha ha ..
    2.Will these same cola companies import their own finished products that are manufactured in INDIA and sell them back home in america and will the american GOVERNMENT allow it ??..
    The answer will be big “NO”. I have seen many foreigners saying that the taste and quality of colas is different from what they consume at home and in INDIA.If so then why is this difference ??.Forget there is some investigating body like CSE or XYZ ,but isnt it ethical or respect for human values to maintain same quality world over whether there is or there isnt any watch dog always checking the quality of these cola products .Will the cola employees including CEO’s will promote to consume cola everyday for their loved ones ..???
    These questions should be asked and asnwered by the employees of these cola comapnies only.Let them decide and come with appropriate answer till then the products should be banned.

    Comment by sudhir — August 17, 2006 @ 8:28 am

  71. I have followed Cola controversy and had opted to visit their plants and see their website in details.

    I have seen many comments put on this Blog asking questions on source of pesticides, what is safe, what are the standards etc.
    Few comments here:
    1. There are no standards for finished products in World, as also in India.
    2. Standards are globally applied to ingradients.And for good reason. Let us take example of milk.You can either chose to have one standard for milk or chose to have 1000 standards for each product made with milk- Burfi, powder milk, milk shakes,Cheese, butter etc .etc.
    3. Prevalent standard in India are on Packaged Drinking water- which are conforming to EU standards and are as strict as possible, anywhere in the world. And target companies- Coca-Cola and Pepsi comply with these standards.
    4. Same purified water as per BIS/EU standard is used in making these beverages. These companies actually remove contamination whether pestides or other material.
    5. What has CSE done ? Tested Soft drink against standards of water ( or some proposed standards), in own lab, without any validation from any one else. So it screams that Pepsi has 24 times more pesticides. What is more? What is 24 times more? It is 12 parts in 1,000,000,000. So is it more? OR less? It is more as compared to a non existant standard! BUT less then everything else that we can include in our food basket.Because these companies care for their consumers and their brands- so they have installed latest equipment to clean all ingradients to reach highest safety levels.

    5. Who regulates CSE or for that matter any other NGO? except for an archaic act under which each of these need to be registered- WHAT is the regulation on them? Any standards for CSE to follow? Any ethics for them to follow? Any act of law that they need to subscribe? Any other certification they need? NO, there is nothing. SO they have right to hit below the belt, abuse, defame the country , ride on popularity of some top brands and go unscathed.

    6.They say Indian Govt and states are sold out to these MNCs. Who can make such allegation in any other country. It is a slander of highest order on our Govt. Is anybody taking any action?

    7. Let us all question CSE- who has regulated the whole process of her tests/reports? Any third party oversight committe? Like she speaks of regulation on Companies, who are her validators/regulators. Why should we believe their results? What are the bio datas of her so called experts and who pays them?

    8.Why has CSE not subjected the “Control/Retention samples” of all the products claimed to have been tested in other labs- which are accredited for testing pesticides residues. If not CSL- which CSE said tested Colas on behalf of the company , and were paid so are likely to be dubious ( A BIG JOKE, THOUGH), any other labs of simmilar repute as CSL or even better credentials?

    Can their result be verified? Same bottle that she tested give same results even in CSE labs? NO.

    9. That brings us back to standards. Even if India wants to do world’s first by having standard on finished product, entire scientific community is unanimous that standards can be made and implemented only when testing protocol and methodology are established. That is to ensure that tests are reverifiable, could be validated and are repeatable.

    10. Each of over 100 plants of Coca-Cola and Pepsi in India work within 70-100 different licenses/regulations of Centre/State governments. Over 400 tests are routinely conducted on their products EVERY DAY. How can they escape by flouting rules/any rule. What CSE is implying that all regulators/governments are a SHAM and CSE and Sunita Narain are GODSEND Saviours of human kind. Prepostorous.

    11. Any law of land that these Companies have flouted? NO. So why these comments from many visitors on this blog and by CSE that these companies are bad? In more than one way they go beyond prevailing standards in the country. BUT CSE paints them as evil, WHY? Whose funds sustain CSE and likes?

    12. PESTICIDES- root of this controversy. Has taken a back seat in this rhetoric of CSE. How does it enter your apple and milk ( actually every thing that we eat), how can we reduce that, how can we gradually remove that? All this is lost in the TAMASHA of CSE.

    13. Question should have been how to reduce menance of a necessary evil. But debate is why not hang these MNCs, even if not guilty.

    14. Has CSE ever visited a Coke or Pepsi plant? or office? or met with any officials to share her concerns? No, because they are GODSEND, and hence can cook anything in their own premises and serve to humankind. Because they are so “Godly” that they can not go wrong. Very arrogant. Least scientific. Zero democratic. Stinking!!!

    15. Something about comments on X oy Y. Where to focus. Obviously X. As noted in my comment no.2, Standards are globally applied to ingradients.And for good reason. Let us take example of milk.You can either chose to have one standard for milk or chose to have 1000 standards for each product made with milk- Burfi, powder milk, milk shakes,Cheese, butter etc .etc.

    16. About comments that “just because Colas have less pesticides than say an apple” they can not be absolved. SURE, but they can only be held guilty if they have not made safe products, have not complied with law of land, have not cleaned contamination that they continue to get from Water/Sugar etc.

    17. Finally- It is Consumer who has to chose. But he has right to have “correct” facts and not “Cooked in CSE” facts. Nutrition or no nutrition, if a informed consumer wants to have an apple with 100,000 more pesticides than in a Cola, who can stop him? Any why should anybody stop him? Similarly if a consumer want to consume a Cola which do not have even traces ( going by CSE 24 in 1,000,000,000)and choses that just for FUN or for REFRESHMENT or for HYDRATION, what is CSE’ problem.

    18. Water is mandatory, so is milk ( atleast in India), so is Sugar and wheat and Rice and Tea. No nothing for them? No standards? NO concern. But whole country is made to boil on Colas that are essentially an optional item in our food basket.

    19. Anyways who drinks colas- middle class and affluent. Who are reasonably educated to make educated choices. So what is happening in this debate, everybody is talking about protecting health of relatively affluent and educated people from non existant scare of pesticides in Colas, but everybody has forgotten about ill effects on health of POOR people, who eat/drink tap water, milk, sugar, tea, wheat, rice etal.

    Write back for more on this.

    Comment by Aggi — August 17, 2006 @ 12:28 pm

  72. An important issue that is getting lost in the discussion on pesticides in sugar, apples, etc., is this: whatever the level of pesticides, a much larger problem is water-borne diseases caused by disease-carrying living organisms. This is primarily caused by the presence of human waste in drinking water. Some half-a-MILLION Indian children actually die from water-borne diseases every year (link and link), and of course millions more fall sick. While the low-level pesticides in coffee, apples, etc. and super-ultra-low-level pesticides in Coke/Pepsi may have some negative health effects in the long run, those who are unable to boil/aquaguard their regular drinking water may suffer severely even in the short term, and many may not even live to see the long term. The greatest need is for improved sanitation facilities and promoting a culture and awareness of hygiene.

    Comment by Sid — August 18, 2006 @ 4:35 am

  73. [...] Cola Con: A highly opinionated Article [...]

    Pingback by Indicast - An Indian Podcast — August 18, 2006 @ 10:59 pm

  74. Having worked in Coca Cola for a while maybe I am not the right person to talk about this issue. However, what I do feel is that there is so much ruckus on this issue only because there is so much widespread negativity against MNC’s such as Coke in India. What about the excessive use of pesticides in farming particularly vegetables and fruits. Why doesn’t anyone raise an issue about that? They are much less talked about while the Coke issue gets so much attention.

    Coming to nutrition, we are a long way away from establishing health standards and forcing firms to disclose nutrition related information to consumers on packaged food products. It is a shame that the government is interested in the coke pesticide story and has no clue nor interets in addressing bigger issues relating to packaged food products. As more MNC’s enter the retail industry in India, the market is bound to be flooded with pre-packaged processed food and unless the government has strict standards in place there is going to be a major fiasco.

    Comment by Girish Mallapragada — August 21, 2006 @ 5:25 am

  75. Hi,
    Atlast the facts are slowely coming out. Today the health ministry announced that out of so many samples tested (i think around 215)across country no excessive traces of Pesticides in Colas ( and TV shows). Now as Usaual CSE’s Sunita Narain blaming all for not caring for public health and Backing Colas. But I loved to see the debate on “Headlines Today”. wherevere there is an instance to answer technically she is using emotional words to get out of the situation. What she is saying in the entire world (Govt of India, Vimta, CSL London, MWH California etc) only her test reports are correct and rest all are wrong. When asked about why she had not kept a second set of sample for conformation or atleats the date and time of these samples, she try to blame but never answered these essential questions
    The report of expert comitee is fairly simple, to the point and highlighting the loopholes in CSE testing and Findings.
    So if the test itself is wrong, how can we blame Colas that they are doing wrong.

    Comment by Uday Yalamarthy — August 22, 2006 @ 11:26 pm

  76. the health ministers comments today will surely put the entire controversy in perspective. Maybe CSE should now get after Garfield for eating Lasagna, Popeye for eating spinach and Jerry for eating cheese, all of which have pesticide content much much greater than colas?

    Comment by ashim — August 23, 2006 @ 12:41 pm

  77. Hi,
    look at the turn around. Last night i just amazed about the comments mdae by Sunita Narain in Headlines today. The experts comitee report is just simple and self explanatory. You can see this at It simply examined each and every activity carried out by CSE and Pointed out the Flaws in the Procedure. It never touched any controversial things and I believe it has done a fairly decent job by just the technical aspects of Pure Sceince.

    What amazed me is the Sunita comments on verious reputed labs and persons. She blamed everyone who questions the methodolgy (Absolutely only methodology) and link them to Cola Companies, Money, power etc etc. So who needs to regulated now ???

    Comment by Uday Yalamarthy — August 23, 2006 @ 1:33 pm

  78. It seams that the witch hunt by the CSE against the two international companies is over. The CSE is now proved to have had doubtful methods. An I don’t believe in the CSE’s conspiracy theories that everyone that proves them wrong is paid by their “enemies”

    The truth is simple: the CSE did a doubtful study in order to get results they wanted, in order to hurt the two big companies. And now rationality came back into the process.
    Thank god!

    Reuters: India says Cola pesticide charges not proven

    “ India’s health minister said on Tuesday an environmental group that said soft drinks produced by Coca-Cola and PepsiCo contain high levels of pesticides had failed to prove its claims.
    But the group, the Center for Science and Environment (CSE) rejected Anbumani Ramadoss’s statement and accused him of pandering to big multinationals at the expense of public health.
    Both companies have defended the safety of their products.
    Ramadoss said his ministry was seeking more details from the CSE after hearing the view of experts appointed by the government.
    “The conclusion of the expert committee is that the report of the CSE does not provide conclusive evidence for presence of different pesticides in the concentration reported,” Ramadoss told parliament in response to questions by lawmakers.
    He said the expert panel had found several inconsistencies in the chemical information presented by CSE.
    Ramadoss said the ministry had directed state-run labs across the country to conduct their own tests on samples of soft drinks and results received so far had either found no pesticide traces or their levels were below statutory limits.”

    Comment by Julius — August 23, 2006 @ 2:38 pm

  79. so whay are you suggesting? that we ignore the CSE report completely?
    the other pesticide itmes mentioned in the various blogs are essential food items and not a drink harmful even without pesticides, and with zero nutritive value.
    the giant corporates seem to have a lot of fans in india. Who cares that the denizes of plachimada have been struggling for even potable water ever since cola bolltling unit started functioning.
    we have skewed idea of development.
    developmaent at what cost?
    anyway , now that the govt has shot down the CSe warning, rejoice and celebrate

    Comment by kochuthresiammap.j. — August 23, 2006 @ 8:35 pm

  80. so what are you suggesting? that we ignore the CSE report completely?
    the other pesticide itmes mentioned in the various blogs are essential food items and not a drink harmful even without pesticides, and with zero nutritive value.
    the giant corporates seem to have a lot of fans in india. Who cares that the denizes of plachimada have been struggling for even potable water ever since cola bolltling unit started functioning.
    we have skewed idea of development.
    developmaent at what cost?
    anyway , now that the govt has shot down the CSe warning, rejoice and celebrate

    Comment by kochuthresiamma p.j. — August 23, 2006 @ 8:40 pm

  81. Intersting take on this topic in financial express, the author gives scientific explanation of testing

    Comment by Sunny — August 24, 2006 @ 2:11 am

  82. CSE makes basically two arguments.
    a. The overt argument that colas contain harmful pesticides and should not be consumed.

    b. It also makes a covert argument that colas do not have any nutritive value and should not be consumed.

    What I object to is the combination of a. and b. i.e. colas do not contain nutritive value so they should have higher pesticide standards than say sugar or milk.

    Comment by Rishi — August 24, 2006 @ 5:03 am

  83. I am not a fan of MNC’s in principal but I am not an enemy of them in principal two.
    There are conclusions to be drawn out of this controversy:

    1) There are pesticides in all our food and drinks in India, which is really worrying.
    2) The government needs to introduce testing standarts for a variety of products (including soft drinks and milk, etc.), where it did not do so.
    3) The CSE is not to be trusted anymore

    Comment by Julius — August 24, 2006 @ 11:45 am

  84. Colas not having nutritive value has nothing to do with the pesticide levels they have. As a free country I believe it is upto the consumers to choose whether they want to consume a non-nutitiuve drink such as Coke or Pepsi. The government should only be involved in establishing health standards that relate to such consumption and ensuring that firms adhere to these standards.

    What about the government not crackign down on quacks and RMP’s spread all over the country? If the government is so concerned about adulterated non-nutritive drinks, how about drainage seepage into drinking water in low-income localities? Why is it that agencies such as CSE are concerned with only hazards related to cola and not very worried when it is the government that’s messing up basic drinking water. Shouldn’t someoen be suing the government for lack of clean drnking water. Maybe a law has to be passed making it imperative for the government to ensure clean drinking water for every citizen of this country. How is that for a goal ?

    Comment by Girish Mallapragada — August 25, 2006 @ 8:25 am

  85. Again after Pesticide claims proven wrong, some one going back to other issues like Kerala water issue. What I want to say is we know only Partial facts of an issue that too from a party which is vociferous than the Other. Normally MNC (Infact any big company) opt to submit their arguments / Documents of Proof to Regulatary agenicies / Governements to proove their actions. They don’t respond to others publicly because, if they do so, in a country like INDIA, every one try to make out of that and then comapny instead of doing business, have to become a full time information buero for the chota NGOs.

    Second we were much heard about the corporate repsonsibility of many companies, like water harvesting, Greenbelt development, Social activities etc, which these comapnies are also doing

    Thrid No comany will survive without using natural resources whether indian or MNCs. But we have to see these utilization must be returned fully or partially by these corporate responsibility programs

    According to my Knowldege there are more than 3 groups in Kerala issue. There is no harmony between them and each group is working as per their own interest. if company agrees to do some activities and convey that to groups, if one agreed and rest opposes

    All these groups have their vested intersts duly supported by Governments and NGOs like India resource center which wants Huge ransoms to re open the plants

    Obviously we know what these groups are saying on daily media. We do not know what is the other side of the story as our media never analyze these issued technically. They simply publish who said what

    Comment by Uday Yalamarthy — August 27, 2006 @ 8:46 am

  86. Namaste!
    I am ravi hriday of class IX we r having a science exbhition in our school. the topic is adulteration of food products.
    So, my techer said me to present a topic tht how can we test experimentally that the colas are having the pesticides in. so plz can any 1 of u say me plzzzzzzzzz

    Comment by Ravi Hriday — September 13, 2006 @ 5:42 pm

  87. Namaste!
    I am ravi hriday of class IX we r having a science exbhition in our school. the topic is adulteration of food products.
    So, my techer said me to present a topic tht how can we test experimentally that the colas are having the pesticides in. so plz can any 1 of u say me plzzzzzzzzz

    my email id is

    so plz send the details 4 me.

    Comment by Ravi Hriday — September 13, 2006 @ 5:44 pm

  88. [...] indian economy  contains the same article [...]

    Pingback by Pesticides, Colas and India « belliraj — September 18, 2006 @ 10:39 am

  89. [...] Another instance of bad press that the companies concerned must be ruing is the recent Pesticide Cola. The merits of the study and the accusation is a different matter and has been given a full analysis on here. But as subjects go, this is a great one to catch the fancy of the consuming public. No pictures here, so the word picture has to do. But everything else is beautifully set up. Pesticides are deadly if consumed in large quantities. (Did you know that consuming pesticide is the most common method of committing suicide by Chinese women in the hinterland. It seems the suicide rate is very high). Coke and Pepsi are consumed by a public that tends to be urban and educated. Kids drink a lot of it. Nobody knows what the heck BIS means and in what quantities is it harmful. You put all of this together and the facts stop mattering. Fear takes over. And the sensationalistic media. And there is very little that Pepsi or Coke can say that will put Humpty Dumpty together again. [...]

    Pingback by » Blog Archive » Any Press is Good Press: Tell that to Dell — September 25, 2006 @ 6:44 am

  90. hai.. I am very thankful to this page to help to create my article for INC college. thank you.

    Comment by faizal.v m — September 28, 2006 @ 2:29 pm

  91. the pesticide issue was only a pretext to give the marching orders to coke unit. the present kerala CM had been fighting to have this unit shut .
    dont get me wrong- am not an ardent leftist in my views- but i do have me reservations about the development model adopted by india. i know for sure that a lot of small players have gone under with the ruthless liberalisation which does not factor in their predicament. go ahead and liberalise, privatise, open up – our economy needs that no doubt. but the government must take care of the fall out of its policies. there should be systems and alternative measures in place which will protect the small players, ensure them the same dignified life that they enjoyed with the occupation that sustained them. it’s as simple as that. the country cannot fill its coffers driving the small players up the wall in search of the noose to end their misery! what sort of development is that? let us not talk so dismissively of the depletion of ground water at plachimada. it is a huge human issue which cannot be wished or willed away , just as we canot brush aside the fall out of our present mode of development which is rationalised as collateral damage!!
    plachimada ground water problem is not something that can wait forever while arm chair critics debate over the veracity of the media reports about it. for goodness sake it is drinking water against coke. the government should not behave like the coporate idealogues with a if-they-do-not-have-water-give-them-coke type of attitude.
    we should not forget history. remember, how ceaucescu of rumania filled the coffers with foreign exchange by exporting even the staple food – bread. he was executed by a hungry nation on xmas day.
    how can we forget that hunger and thirst and taking away the livelihood of people can destabilise a country?
    my blog.

    Comment by kochuthresiamma P. J. — October 7, 2006 @ 1:56 pm

  92. Dems zero in on Padgett bankruptcy – Cite ‘questionable practices’
    ZANESVILLE conference facility A Dover attorney accused congressional candidate Joy Padgett of trying to hide assets in her federal bankruptcy proceedings by transferring land to her two conference facility and selling material secured by a federal loan.

    Comment by conference facility — October 19, 2006 @ 11:01 am

  93. Go on its really good

    Comment by cfnmfever — December 20, 2006 @ 5:42 am

  94. I think people start missing the point after a while. Why are we always trying to bring each other down? Facts and statistics are dependent on how the experiment is conducted. Who cares how much pesticides are in one egg or bottle of coke. What matters is how we treat the earth and why we consume what we consume. If you drink coke, than do it with love, and really enjoy it. If not, don’t judge. Sugar is full of pesticides and so is the water. Let’s try to drink as little as possible of the things that don’t help our bodies, ie, softdrinks, let’s all give thanks for the earth, buy things that don’t hurt her, and drink more water. Hydrate your body to help your liver and kidneys process all the pesticides that inevitably enter our body!

    Comment by David Hud — January 4, 2007 @ 3:16 pm

  95. @ David
    Ahhhh…yeah sure…

    But let’s come back to the point here, shall we? Ultimately the question is, just because eggs and water have more pesticide in it…which I am not sure about…is it okay to drink Colas? So what, basically, you are trying to say is ….as you are already consuming a lot of harmful stuff from other’s products…it’s ok to consume a little of ours??
    I think the major issue is not that whether Cola companies have been targeted because they are soft or whatever…but it’s because they are at fault…which I see Arjun has admitted to…

    So it comes down to this…there is a set norm to which Cola Companies must adhere to…they are minting money off their consumer left, right and center. Either stick to the basic and VERY FEW rules that have been set…or get out…vaise bi our domestic market can do much better given a chance!!! It just needs opportunity!

    Comment by Ashi — January 20, 2007 @ 5:30 pm

  96. Very Interesting! We were just waiting for all who have concern to come out with their thoughts !
    We have been working on a lot of subjects including the ‘pesticide in cola’ and ‘pesticides in our life’ and the Cheap Populist tricks of Sandeep Pandey, Sunita Narain and the likes!
    You may visit us at our site…. may be you will appreciate our effort ….. may be you would like to be a part of our effort.

    Comment by hindustani — April 7, 2007 @ 11:24 pm

  97. [...] Arjun Swarup at the Indian Economy Blog [via India Uncut] has a well-documented and detailed overview of the issues involved, and argues that many products that Indians consume in greater quantities than colas — such as eggs, milk, and fruit — are much higher in trace amounts of pesticides. Arjun maintains the CSE could spend it time better in those areas. [...]

    Pingback by Markets and Investments » Uncle Sam asks India for a level cola playing-field — January 9, 2008 @ 4:48 pm

  98. [...] another note, Sunita Narain’s at it again — after colas, now it’s edible oils. (HT: Amit Varma for the latter [...]

    Pingback by The Indian Economy Blog » Weekend Reading: 8 Feb, 2009 — February 11, 2009 @ 9:36 am

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

Powered by WP Hashcash

Powered by WordPress