Print pesticide levels on soft drinks, court orders colas
in a landmark judgement, the High Court (hc) of Rajasthan has directed soft drink majors PepsiCo and Coca-Cola to specify ingredients of their products and pesticide levels on their labels. The order applies to all manufacturers of carbonated beverages and soft drinks. It was issued on October 8, 2004, by the hc's Jaipur bench, in response to a public interest litigation (pil). When contacted for their response to the order, Coca-Cola India told Down To Earth (dte): Since we already publish ingredients details on our packaging and do not add pesticides, the judgement is unlikely to have any operational impact." Pepsi Foods Private Limited said they had applied for a copy of the order but were yet to receive it.
Chief Justice Anil Dev Singh and justice K S Rathore directed "the respondent companies namely PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, and all other manufacturers of carbonated beverages and soft drinks, to disclose the composition and contents of the products, including the presence, if any, of the pesticides and chemicals, on the bottle, package or container, as the case may be. The order has to be followed with immediate effect. Advocate Swati Bhati, who filed the pil in March 2003 on behalf of the Youth Welfare Society, Jaipur, says the court rejected cola companies' application to delay the order's implementation by two months.
The cola companies also contended that pesticide residue was not an intentional additive but an "incidental contaminant" from the raw material. They questioned the validity of restricting "the sale and consumption of beverages containing pesticides" when there was no restriction on pesticides in water. The court held that while water was a necessity for survival, soft drinks were mere products of trade and commerce, sold at a price: "Once a person pays for a commercial product it must be totally safe."
Bhati says her clients have filed a caveat, anticipating that the companies will approach the sc.
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