Authorities in Beijing have backed away from an official report that labelled PepsiCo and Coca-Cola Co as two of the city's worst water polluters, an allegation strongly contested by the soft drinks firms.

Both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola Co factories in Beijing were this week listed among 12 of the worst water polluters in the city by the Beijing Development and Reform Commission.

However, city authorities today (21 August) backed away from the report, clarifying its findings by saying that both companies meet waste water standards and that the list merely reflects how much water a company uses, according China's official Xinhua news agency.  

It is believed that the Commission has since removed the list of companies from its website.

Both PepsiCo and Coca-Cola Co strongly rejected the pollution claims.

"As clarified by the Beijing authorities, our beverage plant's inclusion on the Government's list simply reflects that the plant is a large user of water," said a PepsiCo spokesperson today.

"PepsiCo's Beijing plant strictly adheres to all national standards for wastewater treatment and emissions, and our China beverage plants were recognised last year by the Beijing Water Resources Bureau and the China Beverages Industry Association for water conservation efforts."

A spokesperson for Coca-Cola Co in in the Pacific region told just-drinks that it, too, meets water treatment standards in Beijing.

He added: "The Beijing Development and Reform Commission has indicated that it will be monitoring several companies, including our Beijing bottler, that are comparatively large users of water or energy.  We appreciate the Beijing Government's efforts to work with industry to monitor and reduce our shared environmental impacts and we will collaborate fully with them as their review moves forward."

Both soft drinks giants said that they are committed to reducing water use in China and on a global basis.

PepsiCo said it had cut water use at its China beverages business by 22% in 2008, compared to 2007. Coca-Cola Co aims to cut water use globally by 20% by 2012.