The Cola wars continue, but this time Pepsi and Coke are on the same side. In the opposite corner are a New Delhi-based environmental group, left-leaning politicians in Southern India, and nonstop press coverage, all raising alarm over high traces of pesticides found in both companies’ sodas in India (happy Indpendence Day, btw!).
The controversy bubbled over last Wednesday, when the southern state of Kerala banned the sale and production of Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, Fanta, and other soft drinks made by the local subsidiaries of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, days after four other Indian states had begun partial bans on the sale of the soft drinks at schools, colleges and government offices. The nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party has called for a nationwide ban, activists have held bottle-smashing events, and the Supreme Court may be calling for Coke to reveal its century-old recipe so that the cola's contents can be better evaluated. The ban comes just as PepsiCo names as its new CEO Indra Nooyi—the highest ranking Indian-born woman in corporate America.
As both companies, which together account for nearly 80 percent of India’s $2 billion-a-year soft drink market, have struck back with claims their critics are full of hot air, trade officials in India and even the U.S. have expressed worry about the damage the bans will do to foreign investment.
Of course, those concerns should take a backseat to the potential health risks; the findings by the Center for Science and Environment (CSE) in New Delhi showed that pesticide residues in Coke and Pepsi, despite three-year-old complaints, have been 24 times above allowed limits, including Lindane, a known carcinogen, and the neurotoxin Chlorpyrifos. Let's hope the cola companies can end the outrage for everyone's sake by beginning a productive and public safety review.
: : Associated Press via The Guardian.