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Pure juices, dairy beverages may be exempt from pesticide norms

Nithya Subramanian
Harish Damodaran

New Delhi , July 20

In what seems to be a move to protect farmers' interests, the Government plans to keep milk-based beverages and pure fruit and vegetable juices out of the purview of the stringent pesticide residual norms fixed in the aftermath of last year's Cola controversy.

The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has, in its latest draft standards, adopted the same Maximum Residual Limit (MRL) specification on pesticides that was prescribed by the Health Ministry for packaged drinking water and subsequently applied to soft drinks as well. This amounted to 5 parts per billion (i.e. 0.0005 mg/litre) in respect of total pesticide residues and not more than one part per billion (0.0001 mg per litre) in case of pesticide residues considered individually.

The latest BIS draft, seeking revision of its IS-2346 standard, extends beyond packaged water and soft drinks to include all "ready-to-serve non-alcoholic beverages," which will henceforth be required to meet the new MRL norms. At the same time, the draft specifically exempts "medical beverages, pure fruit/vegetable juices, or those containing or derived from dairy products."

In other words, while the cola you drink may now conform to the highest pesticide residue standards on a par with that in the European Union, the same cannot be said for dairy beverages or fruit juices that are considered healthier, natural products.

The move not to impose EU-style MRL norms for milk-based products and pure fruit and vegetable juices has apparently been taken in view of the practical difficulties this might pose in field conditions.

"Milk, unlike cola, is not produced in a factory, but is a natural secretion from cows and buffaloes. Milk quality, therefore, is largely influenced by the feed consumed by them. If the grass that the animals feed on contains traces of DDT or other pesticides, some of this is likely to also be found in the milk they secrete," said Mr B.M. Vyas, Managing Director, Gujarat Cooperative Milk Marketing Federation (GCMMF).

Moreover, he pointed out that unlike in Europe, where the animals are stall-fed, most of the cows and buffaloes here graze in the open. Adopting EU norms can, hence, only be a gradual process, "since environmental conditions cannot be changed overnight or modified as in a factory setting."

The proposed revised IS-2346 standards will cover "flavoured and sweetened, carbonated/non-carbonated beverages, carbonated water or soda water with or without permitted flavours, flavoured and sweetened/unsweetened, carbonated/non-carbonated with dietetic/electrolyte mixtures in formulation, sweetened/unsweetened carbonated/non-carbonated water with fruit/vegetable juice (only beverages containing up to 10 per cent juice), fruit/vegetable pulp and fruit/vegetable concentrates with or without added flavours, ready-to-serve decaffeinated, sweetened, unsweetened, carbonated/non-carbonated beverage with or without added flavours" and "any other non-dairy based ready to serve beverage."

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