Tightening up

To rein in beverages industry

 
By Nidhi Jamwal
Last Updated: Saturday 04 July 2015

the soft drink episode has apparently made the authorities wise up to the need for hard resolve. On August 26, 2003, the Union ministry of health and family welfare (mohfw) issued a draft notification amending the Prevention of Food Adulteration (pfa) Rules, 1955, to give them more teeth. The proposed changes seek to stringently limit the presence of pesticides and poisonous metals in all types of ready-to-serve beverages.

The draft is now open for public comments. The new standards will come into force after the ministry scrutinises the general reaction, incorporates important suggestions and notifies the norms under pfa. According to an mohfw official, a simultaneous effort is underway to harmonise pfa rules with the Codex Alimentarius Commission guidelines. The commission is the joint body of the World Health Organization and Food and Agriculture Organization on food standards.

Quantitative change
Proposed norms to improve quality of beverages
Contaminant

Permissible limits
(in parts per million)

PFA Rules, 19551 New draft notification*2
Pesticide residues No standard 0.0001 (individual)
0.0005 (total)
Lead (in concentrated soft drinks, not including concentrates used to make soft drinks) 0.5 0.01
Copper (in soft drinks, excluding concentrates and carbonated water) 7.0 0.05
Arsenic (in soft drinks intended for consumption after dilution, except carbonated water) 0.5 0.05
Cadmium No standard 0.01
Mercury No standard 0.001
Chromium No standard 0.05
Nickel No standard 0.02
*Note: The new draft notification covers all ready-to-serve beverages
Source: 1) Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955, 19th edition, 2003, International Law Book Company, p 170.
2) The Gazette of India, Union ministry of health and family welfare, Notification, New Delhi, August 26, 2003.
A measure of how much stricter the new norms are likely to be (see table: Quantitative change) is underscored by the limits prescribed for lead. Instead of the prevalent 0.5 parts per million (ppm), they are set to be fixed at 0.01 ppm -- an amount that is 50 times lesser. Those for copper are to be made 0.05 ppm as compared to the current permissible level of 7 ppm. This is over 100 times more severe.

The term "beverages" includes carbonated water, fruit and vegetable juices, fruit syrup, fruit squash, fruit drink and soft drink concentrates (after dilution as per declaration) among other products.

The plan also envisages extending to the finished product in the beverages sector, the norms that have been notified for pesticide residues in bottled water. The latter will be governed by the new rules from January 1, 2004. These stipulate that pesticide residues should not exceed 0.0001 ppm when considered individually and, as a whole, should be under 0.0005 ppm. "The analysis to verify adherence to the new rules will be done using internationally established testing methods," states the notification.

Consumer groups have welcomed the move. Kamaljit Singh, codex and food safety officer with the New Delhi-based Voluntary Organisation in Interest of Consumer Education, avers: "It is a step in the right direction. As a consumer, though, I would like to have food standards that are even stricter than those of the eu. In India, a large chunk of the population is malnourished. This section would be more susceptible to pollutants than the people living in industrialised countries."

The issue of regulating beverages was brought into focus by the Centre for Science and Environment, when it released its report on pesticides in soft drinks on August 5 (see: "Colanisation's Dirty Dozen", August 15, 2003).

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