Close on the heels of a major health scare on finding pesticides in bottled drinking water, a non-government organisation on Tuesday claimed that the bottled soft drinks owned by two multi national companies -- PepsiCo and Coke -- also failed the same health standards testing positive for pesticides.
"12 major cold drink brands sold in Delhi and around contain a deadly cocktail of pesticide residues," Centre for Science and Environment said in New Delhi.
Officials of both PepsiCo and Coke declined to comment on the tests saying the two companies will be holding a joint press conference later.
According to the tests conducted by the Pollution Monitoring Laboratory of CSE, all samples contained residues of four extremely toxic pesticides and insecticides: lindane, DDT, malathion and chlorpyrifos.
The PML team involved in the tests was Dr H B Mathur, Dr Sapna Johnson and Avinash Kumar.
Three samples each of the 12 brands purchased from markets across the city, analysed in April-August and found to contain pesticides residues are Pepsi, Mountain Dew, Diet Pepsi, Mirinda orange, Mirinda Lemon, Blue Pepsi, 7-Up, Coca Cola, Fanta, Limca, Sprite and Thumbs Up.
Mathur said these pesticides included potent carcinogens which can cause cancers and reduce bone mineral density.
Johnson said the basic inference drawn from the tests is that groundwater used for making soft drinks is infested with pesticides. She said PML tested the cold drink samples for 16 organochlorine pesticides, 12 organophosphorous and four synthetic pyrethroids -- all of which are commonly used in India as insecticides.
CSE chief Sunita Narain said in all the samples, levels of pesticide residues far exceeded the maximum residue limit for pesticides in water used as "food", set down by the European Economic Commission.
Both Pepsi and Coca Cola had almost similar concentrations of pesticide residues.
In all PepsiCo brands, total pesticides on an average were 0.0180 mg/litre, 36 times higher than the EEC limit of total pesticides at 0.0005 mg/l.
In Coca Cola brands they averaged at 0.0150 mg/l, 30 times higher than the EEC limit.
Mirinda Lemon topped the chart among all the tested brand samples with a total pesticide concentration of 0.0352 mg/l.
Coca Cola and PepsiCo brands sold in the United States were also tested and found not to contain pesticides.
Narain, however, said in India, these companies cannot be taken to court since the norms that regulate manufacturing of cold drinks here are a "meaningless maze."