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India state of Kerala orders end to Coke and Pepsi operations

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Section: International News Geography: South Asia India Topics: water

August 11, 2006

India state of Kerala orders end to Coke and Pepsi operations

by Hillary Bain Lindsay

The state government of Kerala in south India has banned the production and sale of Coca-Cola and Pepsi. The companies will be asked to close their operations entirely, according to the India Resource Centre.

"We have arrived at the decision to ask both Coke and Pepsi to stop production and distribution of all their products, based on scientific studies which have proved that they are harmful," said Mr. Chief Minister V. S. Achuthanandan.

The Center for Science and Environment carried out tests on 57 samples taken from 11 soft drink brands made by Coca-Cola India and PepsiCo India and found a "cocktail of three to five different pesticides," all apparently present in groundwater used to make the drinks, reported the CBC.

The residues were 24 times above the limits set by the Bureau of Indian Standards, the laboratory said.

"The pesticides in soft drinks in India is a classic case of double standards, one for Americans and Europeans, and another for Indians," said Amit Srivastava, coordinator of the India Resource Centre. "Coca-Cola products made in India could never be sold in the European Union markets or the United States." On at least 10 occasions since January 2005, the US Food and Drug Administration has rejected the shipment of Coca-Cola products made in India coming into the US, on the grounds that they do not conform to US laws and that they are unsafe for the US public.

In various parts of India, from Plachimada in south India to Mehdiganj in north India, communities living around Coca-Cola bottling plants are experiencing severe water shortages. The communities accuse the Coca-Cola company of creating water shortages because of over extraction of water and pollution of the scarce remaining water.

Coca-Cola and Pepsi pay nothing for water used in India. "It takes Coca-Cola nearly four liters of freshwater to produce one liter of product," said Srivastava. "In other words, the company converts seventy five percent of the freshwater it extracts into wastewater, which in turn has contaminated the scarce remaining groundwater and land."

Four other Indian states have already banned the sale of the soft drinks in schools, colleges and government offices, while several other states have said they are examining the issue.

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