Company is compromising public policy, it says

Our Bureau

New Delhi, Sept. 6

The Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on Wednesday said that it had rejected Coca Cola's invitation of a meeting on the pesticides in soft drinks issue on grounds that the soft drinks company was using double standards and delaying the process of setting final-product standards.

Coca-Cola had invited CSE to a meeting on August 16 to discuss the issue of pesticide residues in its products. The CSE release said that though it had initially agreed to the meeting on the condition that the agenda was confined to regulations, it later withdrew its acceptance of the meeting.

Ms Sunita Narain, Director, CSE, said, "Our initial response of acceptance to the meeting was in good faith, believing that the company was genuinely interested in a dialogue on how the process of regulation and standard setting would move forward. But recent events since then make it clear that public policy is being compromised, and therefore, we cannot see the purpose of a meeting between Coca-Cola and us."

Panel report

It also claimed that the report of the expert committee of the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare was, "based verbatim on the comments of the scientists that the company had flown down from London."

It also said that, "... the evidence used to discredit CSE's report is based on what can be, at best, called misinterpretation of scientific data and at worst, a deliberate and well-orchestrated strategy to thrash CSE's analysis and work."

Move disappointing'

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola issued a statement reacting to CSE's claims and said, "It is disappointing that CSE has withdrawn its agreement to accept our offer of a meeting at this point in time. CSE would like to claim Coca-Cola is not interested in a real dialogue, an interesting position, given we are the ones actively seeking engagement. Coca-Cola India supports the move by the Government of India to adopt clear criteria for pesticide residues, based on scientifically validated testing methods. We are already working with relevant government bodies in India to develop and finalise the criteria along with their associated testing protocols for pesticide residues in soft drinks."

The company added, "Our paramount interest remains the health and well being of our consumers in India and around the world. We remain interested in dialogue with all stakeholders, including CSE. We would welcome if CSE would reconsider their position and accept to meet."

Related Stories:
Ministry invites comments on residue limits
`CSE report on pesticide residue inconclusive'
No conclusive evidence of cola pesticides: Govt
UK test results on Coke samples biased, untenable: CSE

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated September 7, 2006)
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