Sunday, August 06, 2006

Pepsi, Coke and CSE

The first time it was reported that pesticides residues were found in Coke and Pepsi samples, I figured that this was a malicious campaign against these American companies operating in India. I dismissed it offhand and it did not stop me from drinking pepsi/coke.

But it is three years later and it has happened again!! Now, I think this is more than a stunt to malign these cola companies and that there might actually be an element of truth to it.

Having said that, it is refreshing to see our courts showing some stern actions and asking pepsi/coke to reveal the contents of their drinks. Also, state governments have been authorised to take random samples for testing purposes.

Why is this a concern? MNCs have been known to be not concerned about the health risks of third world countries. Whether it is Bhopal or Choropampa, the story is the same. Some big company creates a mess and the local people face the consequences of their mistakes. Because they are MNCs, there is always no accountability and the guilty are never brought to justice.

So, is Pepsi and Coke feeding us pesticides? I would not put it past them to do so. But the important question is where do these pesticides come into picture? Is it because they fail to purify the water they pump out of the soil or because the chemicals of these pesticides are a part of the "formula"? That is for the court to find out. Whatever happens, Pepsi/Coke would have to do a major PR work to rectify this mess. The first time around this happened, their sales dropped drastically. Now, I am sure it would drop even more.

Hat tip - Shivam for the email alert to this story.

Update: A more detailed report from Down To Earth (mag of CSE). The story and the data provided clearly state that the levels of pesticides in Pepsi/Coke are still high and unacceptable.

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Shashikant said...

Can you please elaborate the statement Because they are MNCs, there is always no accountability and the guilty are never brought to justice?

Does that mean Indian laws offer concessions to the MNCs not to comply the laws of land?

Also, put another way, are the Indian companies more accountable or Govt makes sure misbehaving Indian companies are "brought to justice"?

MadHat said...

Well, I am thinking of Warren Anderson, who was declared a 'fugitive from justice' because he ignored the summons of the court of India.

Our courts and laws are applicable only in India and our police cannot apprehend fugitives in other countries without the help of the police of that country.

Yes, Bhopal and Choropampa are extreme cases but are scenarios that have kept repeating with regular interval all throughout the developing world.
They do AIDS drug trials in Africa that kill people. Have a look at more such incidents around the world.

These companies could not have gotten away without the active/passive support of the governments which are usually corrupt.

Can you tell what really happened when pesticides were discovered in Pepsi/Coke the first time around? Was a stern action taken against them by the government? Was Pepsi/Coke ordered to open up their factories for inspection of their water purification process? And were they subjected to periodic tests to standardise and monitor the quality of their products?

Shashikant said...

My point is simple. Why just pick MNCs? The local companies also routinely violate the laws and get away. There are dozens of factories built on encroached land near Mithi river in Mumbai, which release harmful effluents in the river. Last year's flood highlighted this glaring lapse. A year later, there is no action taken.

The blame squarely lies with the Govt. Our Health minister is busy banning smoking on silver screen, printing "Tobacco kills" message on cigarette packs and such inane stuff.

I've seen the documentary The Corporation which highlights ugly part of capitalism. But, if the companies are indulging in unlawful activities, it's Govt's job to ensure the "guilty are brought to book". To put the other way, buck stops with Govt.

MadHat said...

Well, the point is that I am talking about MNCs and not about local industries, which are pretty injurious to our environment too. Lets face it, our bikes and cars are too.

The curious problem about the MNCs is that they usually have way too much money which gives them the ability to buy powerful lobbyists and in turn, twist the arms of the governments they are concerned with. Secondly, the real puppet masters are in a different country than the one they do unethical things which means that, in the absence of a real international court of justice, they can never be brought to justice. Thirdly, as the documentary "The Corporate" shows there is no person who can be help accountable when the corporate misbehaves because the Corporate is looked upon as an individual. Lastly, these big MNCs have indeed killed a lot of people, with impunity.

I have my own problems with that documentary. I thought that it had really bad logic in spite of making really good points. For one, their proof that corporates are psychopathic is just plain wrong. Using their logic, I can prove that human beings are psychopathic because I can see each symptom by giving an example of a few individuals.

Passive Blogger said...

I dont believe these drinks contain Pesticides otherwise many people would have got admitted to hospitals!

Three years ago when this similar thing happened their rates got down. I am expecting similar thing now. A 500 ml Mobile bottle costs Rs 20 now when they decreased rates to Rs.15 from Rs.18 three years ago.

It is good if these things happen at certain intervals to control these MNCs.

But now I am hoping to switch from Soft Drinks to Hard Drinks and the ones I have mentioned Here.

Charlotte said...

This article about the Coke/Pepsi issue suggests that the issue here is more than just about soda, but rather more of an American influence and American commercialism in India. As such, I'd say the PR stakes are indeed alot greater than just selling soda.

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