Taking note of an NGO's report on soft drinks containing pesticide residues in excess, the Ministry of Health and Welfare has set up a national level expert committee to examine the issue besides making mandatory the use of water conforming to the standards prescribed for packaged drinking water in manufacturing of carbonated beverages.
In a suo motu statement in the Lok Sabha, the government said the manufacturers had to use the water that constitutes 86-92 per cent of carbonated water in soft drinks as per the Packaged Drinking Water under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955, which was later amended and notified in October 2004.
The four-member expert committee, headed by Dr NK Ganguly, Director General, Indian Council of Medical Research, has been asked to fix norms for the presence of Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) of pesticides in carbonated beverages, fruit and vegetables juices and other finished products.
It will guide the pesticide Residue Sub-Committee on technical aspects regarding fixing of MRLs, including methodology, toxicity, processing factor and health risks conforming to the internationally accepted Codex Working Principles. It will also guide how to monitor pesticides in other food stuffs.
Other members of the committee are—Dr SK Khanna (retd), Industrial Toxicology Research Centre, Lucknow, Dr NP Agnihotri (retd), Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), New Delhi, and Dr G Thyagrajan, Ex-Director, Indian Institute of Chemical Technology, Hyderabad.
The government action followed last week's report of the Centre for Science and Environment in the media which claimed to have found pesticide residues of organo chlorine pesticide (HCH and its derivatives and Heptachlor) and organo phosphorous pesticides (Chlopyrifos and Malathion) in soft drink samples tested and analysed by them.
The CSE had earlier published a report in 2003 on pesticide residues in soft drinks which was examined by a Joint Parliamentary Committee (JPC) headed by Sharad Pawar. JPC had recommended water used in manufacturing the soft drinks should be in conformity with the new norms notified on July 18, 2003.
The Ministry's action, the statement said, was based on the recommendation of the JPC which had also suggested that the eventual goal should be to seek complete freedom from pesticide residues in sweetened aerated waters.
The Health Ministry has also requested the Agriculture Minister to provide requisite data on all pesticides used in sugarcane.
The Health Minister had commissioned a pilot study on sugar samples in September last year.