Coke Responds to India Pesticide Charges

The Associated Press
Tuesday, August 8, 2006; 2:56 PM

ATLANTA -- The Coca-Cola Co. is running ads in several newspapers in India to counter renewed allegations its drinks have high levels of pesticides.

The move comes after the government of India's western Gujarat state asked state-run colleges and schools not to allow sales of Coke and Pepsi soft drinks on their premises.

Coke is running an advertisement in several newspapers in India that say Coke has had tests conducted in independent laboratories and found its products "meet with all Indian and international applicable standards, including those being considered by the regulators in India."

India's Supreme Court on Friday asked Coke and Pepsi to disclose the ingredients in their drinks. The request came a couple of days after a New Delhi-based environmental group, the Center for Science and Environment, said it tested Coke and Pepsi products and found pesticide levels 24 times higher than what is allowed.

"We have looked very hard at this for three years, and all the data and all the science point to the fact that our products are absolutely safe," Pepsi spokesman Dick Detwiler said Monday.

The pesticide challenge is one of several Atlanta-based Coke faces in India.

The country, while not a big soft drink market, would seem to have a lot of growth potential. But Indians consume an average of only eight 8-ounce soft drink servings per year, compared with an average of 837 for Americans, according to Beverage Digest statistics.

And Coke has seen its sales volume decline in the market recently. In the second quarter, volume slipped 12 percent compared with the same period in 2005. In the first quarter, volume fell 10 percent.

In addition to the pesticide controversy, the company has been accused of damaging India's water supply. Also, Coke raised prices in the country this year, which hurt sales, according to the company.

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Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com


© 2006 The Associated Press