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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Soft Drinks Under Fire in India

NEW DELHI, India -- PepsiCo's Indian arm on Friday filed a petition with the Delhi High Court requesting an independent evaluation of a report which accuses Pepsi and Coca-Cola of selling drinks in India containing dangerous levels of pesticide residue, a company official said Saturday.

PepsiCo Holdings India also urged the court to restrain the government from acting on the report by the Center for Science and Environment until an independent analysis was complete, a company official said on condition of anonymity.

The report, released last Tuesday, claimed the levels of pesticides found in some samples of Pepsi drinks were 36 times higher than European Union safety standards.

The Indian government has said it will conduct its own tests.

The New Delhi-based research body also claimed the average pesticide level for Coca-Cola products was 30 times higher than EU guidelines.

It acknowledged that Indian brands also have high pesticide levels because agricultural pesticides are in the country's ground water, but said the focus was on Coke and Pepsi because they account for more than three-quarters of the bottled soft drinks consumed in India.

There has been a flurry of reaction to the report. PepsiCo and Coca-Cola denied the findings, saying the quality of the soft drinks they sold in India was the same as in Europe and America. But several government departments, including Parliament, banned the sale of Coke and Pepsi in their canteens.

News reports Friday said production at the two companies' bottling plants in India had slowed since the report was released and some states said they were independently investigating samples of soft drinks sold in their territories.

In the western Maharashtra state, authorities on Friday prevented a Coca-Cola plant from releasing stocks for sale and distribution. That action was challenged by Coca-Cola in Mumbai High Court, said Sunil Gupta, senior vice president of Coca-Cola India. Gupta denied news reports that the company's sales had declined since the report.

"There was some impact on the first day, but now there isn't much change in daily sales on a year-to-date basis," Gupta said Saturday.

Meanwhile, the government of West Bengal state said Friday it found a high dose of cancer-causing metallic chemical in the sludge from two Coca-Cola plants in the state. Sludge is a waste material generated during the production of soft drinks and is sometimes used by farmers as a fertilizer.