Coca-Cola factory slows production, fires workers

The slowdown came even as a state Govt report found that sludge from the factory contained high levels of lead and cadmium.

business Updated: Aug 09, 2003 17:26 IST

A Coca-Cola factory has slowed down production and fired 40 workers even as a state Government report found that sludge from the factory contained high levels of lead and cadmium.

Officials of the firm, however, said the layoffs had nothing to do with the quality control report or an earlier survey by the Centre for Science and Environment, which found high levels of pesticides in Coke and Pepsi beverages.

The production slowdown took place at the Dankuni bottling plant near Kolkata.

A quality check on the sludge from Pepsi and Coke's bottling plants in West Bengal on Friday had revealed the presence of high levels of lead and cadmium.

Dankuni plant official Joydeb Mukherjee described the workers as temporary hands, but did not elaborate by how much production had been reduced.

A company spokesperson claimed that the slowdown in production was "a normal move" in keeping with lower demands in "off-seasons" and was not prompted by a fall in sales after the adverse quality reports.

However, some of the retrenched workers claimed this was the first instance of jobs-cut in the Dankuni bottling plant.

India's Rs 1.2 billion soft drinks market was rattled by the CSE study this week claiming a dozen popular brands of Coca-Cola and Pepsi contained pesticides.

The firms scurried to allay consumer fears and refute the study by the NGO.

Acting on the CSE report, several state governments have carried tests of the sludge and beverage samples from the two companies' plants.

The West Bengal government's probe found that sludge from Coca-Cola's Dankuni plant contained about 80 mg/kg of cadmium when the permissible limit was only 50 mg/kg. Effluents from its two other bottling plants in West Bengal revealed 76 mg/kg and 50 mg/kg of cadmium respectively.

Residues of these heavy metals had also been found in the sludge from Coke's bottling plants in Kerala.

State health authorities have asked the two companies to explain at what stage of production the two heavy metals were being used. Test reports on the beverages are expected on Tuesday.

First Published: Aug 09, 2003 17:25 IST