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Last Updated: Monday, 14 August 2006, 16:49 GMT 17:49 UK
UK experts say Indian Coke 'safe'
A protest against soft drinks in India
Six Indian states have announced partial or complete bans
Drinks giant Coca Cola has enlisted the help of British government scientists to prove its assertion that its soft drinks sold in India are safe to drink.

Six Indian states have announced partial or complete bans on the soft drinks after claims that the drinks contain harmful pesticides.

At a press conference in Delhi, the scientists said tests carried out by them show the drinks meet EU standards.

But an India-based campaign group has questioned the tests' credibility.

The tests were done by the UK-based Central Science Laboratory, which is known for its expertise in testing for pesticide residues in food.

But the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), which claims to have discovered the pesticide contamination in the first place, says the scientists only tested Coca Cola samples provided by the company itself.

Earlier, Frank Lavin, the US under-secretary for international trade, warned that bans imposed on soft drinks like Coca Cola and Pepsi could blight India's hopes of attracting American investment and result in a setback for the country's economy.

Both soft drinks manufacturers have said their products are safe.

Five Indian states have announced partial bans on the drinks in schools, colleges and hospitals. Southern Kerala state is the first to completely ban their production and sale.

Mr Lavin told the AFP news agency that it would be unfortunate if the loudest voices were those who did not want to treat foreign companies fairly.

'Absolutely safe'

A spokeswoman for the Confederation of Indian Industry, Kiran Pasricha, said she hoped US companies would see the row in the context of local politics and would not base their investment plans based on it.

An Indian man drinking a cola
NGOs say colas contain high levels of pesticide in India

The governments in the states which have banned the soft drinks have said they have taken the step because the drinks pose a health risk.

The ban by the states is the most severe reaction to a report released recently by CSE.

It said tests carried on samples of the drinks across 12 Indian states revealed dangerously high levels of pesticides.

Both Coca Cola and Pepsi have disputed the report's findings, saying their drinks meet international safety standards.

The Indian Soft Drinks Manufacturers Association has echoed the same sentiment:

"Our products manufactured in India are absolutely safe and meet every safety standard set by food health and regulatory bodies in India and all over the world," it said.

In 2003, the Indian parliament upheld a similar report by the NGO, alleging that soft drinks sold by the two companies in India contained pesticides.

It recommended that India set purity standards for soft drinks.

But three years later, the government is yet to act on the recommendation.


SEE ALSO
Court asks Pepsi, Coke to respond
04 Aug 06 |  South Asia
Pepsi and Coke under fire again
02 Aug 06 |  South Asia
India finds pesticides in colas
04 Feb 04 |  South Asia
Court orders Pepsi tests
11 Aug 03 |  South Asia

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