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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 August, 2003, 11:31 GMT 12:31 UK
India clears US colas
Indian protestors in Calcutta
There were protests against the US companies
Drinks sold in India by the US firms Pepsi and Coca-Cola are safe, the Indian Government says.

Earlier this month an environmental group in Delhi said the Indian versions of the US drinks contained unsafe levels of pesticides.

The report triggered demonstrations in India against the companies and a number of bans on the sales of their drinks.

But Health Minister Sushma Swaraj said on Thursday that the Indian versions were "well within" Indian safety standards.

Coca-Cola and Pepsi welcomed the news and praised the ministry's speedy investigation.

But opposition MPs and the group that conducted the report have criticised the government's findings.

We have never doubted the quality of our soft drinks
Sanjiv Gupta
Coca-Cola India president
India's soft drinks industry is estimated at $500m annually.

Coca-Cola said its sales in India had slid by up to 15% following the pesticide allegations, but had steadied in the last week.

Pepsi's chairman in India, Rajiv Bakshi, said: "The government has categorically declared our products safe."

Twelve samples

Ms Swaraj was speaking in parliament after a court order that the government investigate the complaints against the US companies.

Soft drinks stall in Delhi
PepsiCo India said the allegations were intended to spread panic

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said earlier this month that the drinks sold in India by the US companies contained pesticides that were 30 times or more higher than European Union safety (EU) standards.

Ms Swaraj told parliament that two government laboratories had tested 12 samples of drinks made by Pepsi and Coca-Cola.

"The results clearly show that all the 12 samples do not have pesticide residues of the high order as was alleged" by the CSE, she said.

And she said the tests showed the drinks were "well within the safety limits prescribed for packaged drinking water at present" in India.

Ms Swaraj accepted that pesticides in some of the samples exceeded norms laid down by the EU by up to five times.

But this, she said, was much lower than alleged by the CSE.

Contradictory findings

CSE director Sunita Narain accused the government of "whitewashing" public health risks.
The government has rushed to give a clean chit to the soft drink companies
CSE director Sunita Narain
She seized on the admission that some of the soft drinks were not up to EU safety standards.

"They have found pesticides in bottles where they should not have been."

Some MPs were also furious, demanding to know why Indian safety standards were below those in Europe.

The Indian Government report is also at odds with the CSE report over the pesticide, malathion.

The CSE report had said malathion had been found at levels 27 times higher than allowed by the EU.

Ms Swaraj said the two laboratories used by the government had found no traces of malathion.

The publication of the CSE report caused concern across the country.

The Indian parliament banned its cafeterias from serving Pepsi and Coke while the defence ministry issued a circular ordering all its clubs to stop selling the drinks.

Do the findings of the Indian Government over pesticides in colas reassure you?
4398 Votes Cast
Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

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