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'Toxic cola' issue spurs anti-pollution activism

West Bengal has suddenly woken up to the dangers of of food and water pollution after 'pesticides' were found in Coke and Pepsi beverages.

india Updated: Aug 16, 2003 13:50 IST

West Bengal has suddenly woken up to the dangers of food and water pollution in the wake of the findings of pesticide contamination in Coca-Cola and Pepsi beverages.

Suddenly germs have been detected in water taps at public places, chemical residues traced in most industrial wastes and the pollution control authorities feel the need for tighter scrutiny.

Officials, however, deny the heightened health consciousness is a result of the controversy surrounding the soft drinks of the multinational giants.

While the Pollution Control Board says it is printing a unique hallmark on its clearance certificates for that extra stamp of safety, the civic authorities are hastening a drive to check food sold on pavements. Random samples from water taps installed at public places are also being collected.

In the midst of all this, a top civic official has even announced that a modern laboratory would soon be built here for faster testing of pollutants.

"We will build a state-of-the-art laboratory for testing the quality of food and drinks. It will cost us Rs 25 lakhs," Kolkata Municipal Corporation's (KMC) Mayor-in-Council member (Health) Pradip Ghosh told IANS.

Ghosh has initiated a drive to check the quality of food sold on the pavements. "Besides checking for quality of food sold on pavements, we have started a drive against adulteration," he said.

Thousands of people, mostly office-goers, tuck into fare offered by food vendors on the sidewalks, but there is no quality check on them.

"We are also checking the quality of the water supplied at public places and we have found germs at some places. We are taking suitable steps," Ghosh said.

The Pollution Control Board has suddenly become aware that many industrial units possess fake pollution clearance certificates. So it has embarked on a drive to check that.

"There have been cases of forged pollution clearance certificates. So we have started printing a unique hallmark to prevent this," a Board official said.

This unusual health activism comes in the wake of the allegations by an environmental watchdog that 12 brands of Coca-Cola and Pepsi contained pesticide residues.

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) said the pesticides found in the Coca-Cola and Pepsi beverages could cause cancer, damage to nervous and reproductive systems, birth defects and severe disruption of the immune system.

Acting on the CSE report, several state governments have carried out tests of beverage samples from the two companies and the sludge their production units generate.

The West Bengal Government probe reportedly found that sludge from Coca-Cola and Pepsi's bottling plants contained cadmium and lead.

Residue of these heavy metals has also been found in sludge from Coke's bottling plant in Kerala.

Health authorities in West Bengal have asked the two companies to explain at what stage of production the two heavy metals were being used.

First Published: Aug 14, 2003 09:58 IST