Cola giants Coca Cola and PepsiCo put forward different explanations on Monday to make their case against allegations of high levels of pesticides in their products.
Coca Cola presented a study conducted by Central Science Laboratory (CSL), London, which said the pesticide residue was less than 0.1 ppb (parts per billion) in its finished products. The study was commissioned by Coke.
PepsiCo chief executive officer Rajiv Bakshi, however, argued that there was no testing protocol for finished products, a point later conceded by Coca Cola officials.
About two weeks ago, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) had alleged that 11 brands of Coke and Pepsi had 7 to 30 times more pesticide residue than that permitted by the Bureau of Indian Standards.
CSL claims it is the only organisation in the world to have developed a protocol for testing finished products. Its science director Professor John Gilbert said no residues of the four pesticides found by the CSE was detected in the samples provided by Coke for testing last week.
Punching holes in CSE’s report and testing methodology, Gilbert, who was flown in from London with another expert Dr Steward Reynolds, said CSE should not have published the report without prior validation of the findings.
“There is also not enough data on report to authenticate its findings. Many compounds like lindane and heptachlor are very complex and needs detailed investigation,” Gilbert said.
CSE had said that both compounds were present up to 200 times over BIS norms. “CSE’s equipment is okay, the method is fine but they lack experience,” Gilbert said adding CSE should have had their results peer-checked, particulary when they were controversial.
Both Gilbert and Reynolds claimed they were here in their ‘independent capacity’. Faced a barrage of tough queries, Coke officials tried to restrict the number of questions and then whisked both away.
The media questioned the authenticity of the findings, given that Coke footed the bill for the study. After much prodding, Gilbert mearly said: “It is commercial confidentiality”. But Coke officials were candid: CSL has been working for Coke for the past 10 years.