KERALA

Coke, Pepsi challenge ban



Staff Reporter

Say State has no power to prohibit sale of food items

Say only Centre can frame such rulesSay CSE is not a statutory organisation

Kochi: Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Private Ltd. and Pepsico India Holdings Private Ltd. filed separate writ petitions before the Kerala High Court on Friday, challenging the Government Order banning manufacture and sale of colas in the State.

In their petitions, the companies said the State Government had no powers to do so under the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act.

Under the provisions of the Act, only the Union Government could frame rules for prohibiting the sale of food items which might be injurious to health.

They said the ban was imposed in the light of a report from the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), a non-governmental organisation, that a minuscule percentage of pesticide residue, beyond the permissible levels set by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), was found in carbonated soft drinks.

The petitioners said the centre had carried out tests to determine the residue on its own assumed protocols, while the Union Government or any international body or authority had not approved any such norms. BIS was still discussing formulation of a standard for tests. The Union Government had notified the bureau to carry out more studies before setting standards. Hence, the State Government's action was inconceivable.

The petitioners said that in grain, milk and milk products, fruit, vegetable, meat and egg, the permissible pesticide residue tolerance limits, under Rules 65 of the PFA Act, were several thousand times more than those purported to have been found by the CSE.

The petitioners said that CSE was not a statutory organisation. Nor was it an accredited agency of the Union Government for testing and analysing samples of soft drinks. So, the report published by the agency could not be relied upon, in the absence of corroboration by accredited laboratories. They said the CSE findings had not been corroborated or reviewed by any other scientific body. Therefore, the Government's action was illegal and arbitrary. The petitioners also said that the order had been passed without notice or order to the companies.

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