Ganguly panel confirms pesticide in soft drinks

Ganguly panel confirms pesticide in soft drinks The committee headed by N K Ganguly, director general, Indian Council of Medical Research, has finally made its recommendations, mooting a final product standard to regulate soft drinks. The committee's report, filed in the Supreme Court on March 13, now paves the way for the Union ministry of health and family welfare to finalise and notify a mandatory final product standard for pesticide residues in soft drinks.

When in place, these standards will be the world's first soft drink companies will have to meet. The recommendations come as a vindication for the Centre for Science and Environment's (cse's) research on pesticide residues in soft drinks. For almost four years it has been advocating a final product standard for soft drinks as a public health imperative.This demand had been endorsed by a joint parliamentary committee (jpc) in February 2004, which directed the government to establish a final product standard.

The Ganguly committee has recommended a "maximum residue level of one part per billion (ppb) for an individual pesticide for carbonated water'. The panel's report has based its recommendations on a public health risk assessment of soft drinks based on an estimation of quantities consumed. While the panel has recommended limits for individual pesticides, it has stopped short of prescribing a limit for total pesticide residues in soft drinks. Even the limits for individual pesticide prescribed are 10 times the 0.1 ppb limit finalised by the Bureau of Indian Standard (bis) in March 2006. bis had also prescribed a limit of 0.5 ppb for total pesticide content.

The Ganguly committee, also known as the National Level Expert Group, was constituted in November 2004 by the health ministry to guide the authorities fixing "maximum residue levels limits of pesticides in carbonated beverages, fruit and vegetable juices and other finished products'; "on monitoring of pesticides in carbonated beverages'; and, "based on the contents of the soft drinks/beverages to advise on their harmful effects'. The committee, agreeing with jpc's observations, said: "Fruits and vegetables juices and other finished products cannot be clubbed with the carbonated water for fixation of maximum limits.' While talking about the finished product standards for soft drinks, the panel echoed what jpc had said: "The reason that the other countries have not fixed such limits, should not dissuade our lawmakers in attempting to do so.'

The committee had got samples of sugar, sugar syrup and soft drinks tested. This was significant since soft drink companies have for long argued that sugar is contaminated, to avoid regulation. During the meetings of a bis committee, too, industry representatives had argued that Indian sugar was contaminated, which was the sources of residues in their products. But sugar sample tests, both by soft drink companies and the authorities, had not shown pesticide residues. The Ganguly panels test reports reaffirm this. "The results obtained conclusively demonstrated that sugar manufactured in India and made available to the carbonated water industry is practically free from pesticide residues and, if used, is not likely to contribute the levels more than their limits of quantification, i.e., 0.05 ppb