A majority of MPs in the Lok Sabha Thursday demanded a ban on aerated soft drinks like Pepsi and Coca-Cola following reports that they contained pesticides, but the government said a legislation on food safety and standards would check them.
Members of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) and Samajwadi Party walked out of the Lok Sabha alleging the government had taken no steps to ban soft drinks despite a fresh survey by Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) found pesticides in soft drinks collected from plants across 25 states.
MPs belonging to all parties except the ruling Congress demanded an immediate ban on the sale of soft drinks in the country. They alleged that consuming Pepsi, Limca, Coca-Cola and eight other soft drinks was nothing but slow poisoning.
Raising the issue during zero hour, Samajwadi Party MP Ramji Lal Suman said the soft drink companies have not been following the norms issued by the joint parliamentary committee last year. He alleged the government was bowing before the multi-national companies "which is very condemnable".
Communist Party of India-Marxist's (CPI-M) Mohammed Salim and Anil Basu accused the government of "colluding" with the soft drink giants. Ranjeet Ranjan Yadav, an MP from Bihar, urged the government to ask Bollywood actors and sports stars to stop appearing in soft drink advertisements.
BJP deputy leader V.K. Malhotra and Janata Dal-United's Prabhu Nath Singh targeted Health Minister (Anbumani Ramadoss) and took objection to the way he had reacted to the CSE findings.
Singh alleged Ramadoss and the health secretary have come under "cloud" following their failure to act against multinationals manufacturing soft drink.
However, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi denied the charges. "I emphatically deny the allegations," he said.
"The UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government has taken comprehensive measures to ensure standards of the food and drink items. That's why we took initiative in passing a bill on food safety and standards - passed by both houses - and are waiting for the president's assent."
But Dasmunsi's assurance did not satisfy the opposition members who walked out of the house along with the Samajwadi Party MPs.
The CSE report Wednesday said that while Pepsi contains 30 times more pesticides, there is a 25 times increase in pesticides in Coca-Cola than in 2003.
On Aug 5, 2003, CSE had released its study on pesticides in soft drinks, which was endorsed by a joint parliamentary committee, set up to investigate the veracity of the CSE report.