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INDIA: States dig in on soft drinks bans

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A number of Indian states have refused to lift bans on soft drinks sales despite the country's federal government dismissing claims the products contained illegal levels of pesticides.

India's Health Ministry yesterday (22 August) criticised a report earlier this month from the Centre of Science and Environment (CSE) that claimed eleven soft drinks brands contained pesticides.

The report had alleged that tests on 57 samples of Coca-Cola Co. and PepsiCo brands had found 24 times more pesticide than permitted.

However, Indian Health Minister Dr. Anbumani Ramadoss told the country's parliament that the CSE's report did "not provide conclusive evidence for presence of different pesticides in the concentration reported".

In the aftermath of the report, seven states brought in at least partial bans on the sale of Coke and Pepsi products.

Most states only banned the sale of the drinks in government-run offices, schools and colleges but one, the state of Kerala, enacted a state-wide ban. Kerala state government officials today insisted that its ban would stand despite the stance of the federal government.

"Repeated studies have proved that the colas are not good for health. So we have banned them for people's welfare," P. K. Sreemathi, Kerala's health minister told Associated Press. "Our decision is final ... We will enforce it strictly." Both Coke and Pepsi have bottling plants in Kerala, and have challenged the ban in the state's High Court.

Meanwhile, the states of Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh said they had no plans to reverse their plans.

A Coke spokesperson in Atlanta said the soft drinks giant was "disappointed" at the state's insistence on keeping the bans. "The facts clearly show that our products are pure and safe. The Health Ministry has thoroughly discredited the CSE's allegations so (keeping the bans) is frankly baffling," she told just-drinks.

A Pepsi spokesman in New York said the company was "encouraged" by the Health Ministry's stance but admitted the band had hurt sales of Pepsi in India.

"We've asserted from the very beginning that our products are safe, we continue to believe that and all our data and results supports that.

"(But) you'd expect that it hasn't been good for sales, it's the kind of attention you want for your brand."


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