Mumbai: Southern states joined the cola ban with Kerala imposing a complete ban on the production and sale of carbonated soft drinks, including Coca-Cola and Pepsi, and Karnataka announcing a ban on the sale of colas in schools and state-run hospitals from August 14.
The governments of Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhatisgarh had already imposed a ban on cola sales in those states following revelations that these soft drinks contained pesticide residues much above the permissible limits.
The decision, taken by the cabinet on the basis of a recommendation made by the ruling Left Democratic Front's state committee, will further handicap operations of the Coca-Cola plant at Plachimada and the Pepsi unit at Puthussery, both in Palakkad district in Kerala.
Kerala chief minister V S Achuthanandan told reporters after the cabinet meeting that the ban was imposed as studies had established the presence of hazardous elements in the soft drinks. The department of prevention of food adulteration had also sent a serious report on this to the government. There were also court verdicts against cola companies, he added.
A study by a Delhi-based NGO, the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), had found traces of pesticides in 11 soft drink brands manufactured by Coca-Cola and Pepsi companies. The study had found average pesticide residue nearly 24 times above the maximum permissible limits prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards in soft drink samples taken from manufacturing outlets in 12 states.
The pesticide residues included those of lindane, chlorpyrifos and heptachlorine which cause cancer, birth defects, disorders of the nervous system, low sperm count, damage to the kidney and liver and reduced immunity, CSE said.
Both the cola majors still maintain that their products are of international standards and are safe to drink.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, which is hearing a public-interest litigation, had asked the cola manufacturers to provide details about the ingredients and chemical composition of their products.