Coke is still top global brand.
Though partially banned in India, Interbrand, The Global Brand Consultancy Firm, and Business Week have announced the list of 100 best global brands of 2006. Coca-Cola with a brand value of around one-tenth the GDP of India ($67 bn) has retained its position at the top despite a 1% drop in its brand value.
However, what makes Coca-Cola and Pepsi the object of ire for so many, almost all the time? And it does not matter whether they are poor families from Kerala, social activists like Vandana Shiva, environmental groups in Sunita Narain led Centre for Science and Enviroment (CSE), religion/fitness guru Baba Ramdev or just political elements in search for a political scapegoat.
Everyone finds it convenient to attack these brands and for reasons that may vary anywhere from accusations of exploiting scarce ground water, hawking deadly pesticide-laden drinks to consumers, or simply being the poster child of the much hated globalization march of profit-maximizing transnationals.
As if to prove this, a new study has claimed that traces of Malathion, a pesticide, which can have harmful effects in the human brain, were found in certain samples of soft drinks. Malathion, a chemical inhibitor, is known for hindering transmission of signals to the human brain.
The report by the India based Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) on pesticide contents in soft drinks has said it found considerable traces of Malathion in at least 50% of the samples it collected from the national capital region for the study.
“Malathion is a widely used pesticide in urban areas for controlling mosquitoes and pests and we have found traces of the pesticide in at least fifty percent of the samples collected in Delhi and its neighbouring areas” CSE associate director said. The study ‘Soft drinks- hard truth II’ which was released on August 2, also claimed that sofdrink samples collected from the NCR contained a ‘pesticide cocktail’ of lindane, heptachlor, chlorpyrosis and malathion and it was more than twenty times the approved BIS standards.
According to CSE’s 2003 study, the average level of pesticide residues in Delhi samples were 34 times above the same BIS standards. Nine samples of Coca-cola, Fanta, Limca, and Thumsup were collected from various parts of the capital during December 2005 and April 2006. They were produced in Gurgaon’s Enrich Agro Food Products and Ghaziabad’s Hindustan Coca Cola beverages and were tested as part of CSE’s all India study.
Following this CSE reiterated its three-year-old allegation of presence of pesticides much in excess of prescribed norms in 11 softdrink brands. The proposed pesticide residual levels in carbonated drinks in India are comparable to the toughest norms in the carbonated drink category worldwide, including the ones followed by the European Union. In fact the proposed Indian norms for pesticides in carbonated water are much stricter compared with even US norms. However, the only problem in India is that the norms cannot be implemented. The draft of standards for carbonated drinks, which was brought out by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) early this year, has not been notified as yet. ! This means that till now, there are no norms for the fizz beverages and the responsibility for a product’s pesticide levels lies with the companies which produce the colas and the carbonated water et al.