PepsiCo and Coca Cola conjure up "data" that seeks to convolute, confuse and take the Indian public for a ride
New Delhi August 7, 2003: The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) would like to express its disbelief and its annoyance at the way the soft drink industry is trying to make a mockery of the Indian public and the media. Since CSE's report was released on August 5, soft drink manufacturers have not hesitated to call CSE by every possible name and to attack its credibility; they have also termed its reports "baseless". CSE did not respond because it wanted to see the data that the soft drink manufacturers had in their defense.
However today, on examining the data which PepsiCo and Coca Cola have made public, CSE finds the effort is to continue to convolute, confuse and indeed, take the Indian public for a ride.
Two sets of data have been released -- one by Pepsi on the Vimta laboratory report (dated 06/07/2003) for 24 pesticides, tested in six cities of India. Pepsi has also released an advertisement in a few leading newspapers which provide the test results for Delhi city (from its Lawrence Road plant) and from its Noida plant. Coke has also released data on tests done by the Netherlands-based Nutrition and Food Research Laboratory (TNO), for 12 different sites in India. On an analysis of these reports, this is what we find:
1. Coke's data pertains to 'Kinley', one of its products, which is a bottled water product. We would like to remind Coke that the simple reason it is releasing this data in the first place is because we forced it to analyse the pesticide residues on a regular basis and because of the new norms and notifications being issued by the government of India. This is not data related to its soft drink products. It is not even data for the plants that manufacture soft drinks.
2. In the case of Pepsi as well, the data relates to its 'Aquafina' plants - and the tests have been done for raw water and treated water.
3. On the website mentioned in its advertisment, PepsiCo has published the results of tests on only one bottle of Pepsi (presumably Cola) from its Matura plant. This confirms the statement made by the director of Vimta labs, Dr S.P.Vasi Reddy to CSE that Vimta had received only two samples of Pepsi in March, this year.
4. PepsiCo results in two cases also say that pesticide residues in the source water were less than that found in the treated water! Therefore, we fail to understand the point that they are making, unless they are actually adding on pesticides to the water as a part of their process.
5. Therefore, the bottlomline is that this data is not comparable. The CEOs of Pepsi and Coke had very categorically claimed in their press conference that the companies were regularly testing their products in accredited laboratories in India and abroad for pesticide residues. They claimed they were absolutely confident that their products met all global standards and were below the European levels as far as pesticide residues are concerned.
6. CSE dismisses this data produced by the companies in their support. The data that the companies have released today is only another attempt by these giant companies to hoodwink us. For the past two days, CSE has been slandered and discredited by these organisations, and now seeing the weak defense that these companies have offered, CSE is seriously contemplating all options - including legal action.