According to a report in the Indian Express, a government study has found five different toxins in soft drinks produced by multinational companies Coca Cola and PepsiCo. The toxins had leached into the drinks from the PET bottles they were in.
Heavy metals antimony, lead, chromium and cadmium and the compound DEHP or Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate were found in samples of five cold drinks tested – Pepsi, Coca Cola, Mountain Dew (owned by PepsiCo), Sprite (owned by Coca Cola) and 7Up (owned by PepsiCo).
This test was commissioned by Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB), a health ministry body, and conducted in February-March this year by the Kolkata-based All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health. Results also found that the level of leaching increased significantly with a rise in room temperature.
The test results were submitted to Jagdish Prasad, director general of health services and chairman of DTAB, a few days ago, sources told Indian Express. Prasad did not reply to queries.
“We have received no intimation nor a copy of the cited test reports and without an understanding of the methodology used, would be unable to comment on the reports. Having said that, we would like to reiterate that all our products conform to Food Safety and Standards Regulations. We would like to emphatically reiterate that our products comply with the permissible limits for heavy metals as laid down by these regulations,” a PepsiCo spokesperson told Indian Express. Coca Cola refused to comment and the PET manufacturers did not respond.
The chemicals found in the drinks, lead and cadmium, are the top two on the WHO’s list of top ten chemicals of “major public health concern”. Children are especially susceptible to the harmful effects of lead.
In a statement emailed to The Wire on Thursday evening, Coca Cola India said:
“We have not received any communication or notice from any of the concerned government departments pertaining to testing of our products and have learnt about the subject only through the said newspaper report. We would like to reiterate that all our products including those referred in this report are absolutely safe and well within the safety norms prescribed, including those for heavy metals, by the Indian regulatory bodies . The PET packaging is safely used across the world in similar and more extreme weather conditions without any food safety issue. We will be able to comment in details once we receive the said report.”
Note: This story was edited at 20:25 to incorporate a response from Coca Cola India