Coke Finds Unexpected Ally in Indian 'Pesticides Ban' Battle

16 August 2006

The love-in between Britain's Blair administration and its US counterpart blossomed even further this week with news that the Central Science Laboratory, an executive agency of the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, had conferred its blessing on the purity of Coca-Cola.

The global beverages giant which, together with archrival PepsiCo, dominates India's soft drinks industry, is currently fighting a ban on its cola products in six of the nation's 28 states [WAMN: 15-Aug-06].

The restrictions were triggered by a report from the Centre for Science and Environment, an independent local public interest body, which asserts the locally made colas contain on average 24 times the maximum permitted level of pesticides, leading not only to the partial ban but a decline in cola sales across the subcontinent.

At which point Coca-Cola hired the UK government's Central Science Laboratory, based in York, England, to analyse samples of its Indian beverages. It did so using product samples provided by Coke, rather than those bought in the open Indian marketplace, alleges the CSE.

At a press conference on Monday in New Delhi, the CSL's science director Professor John Gilbert duly pronounced: "We are pleased to say we detected no residues of the four pesticides allegedly found in the products by the CSE." The professor did not disclose the source of the samples analysed by his laboratory.

The US government in the person of Frank Lavin, undersecretary for international trade, has already intervened in the affair, alleging that the cola colossi had been treated "unfairly". He also issued a barely veiled threat to impede further US investment in India's dynamic economy if the bans are not lifted.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff