A study commissioned by Health Ministry body, the Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) has found five different toxins — heavy metals antimony, lead, chromium and cadmium and the compound DEHP or Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate in soft drink brands owned by two major multinational companies PepsiCo and Coca-Cola, Indian Express has reported.
Other than their own products, Pepsico owns Mountain Dew and 7Up, and Coca Cola owns Sprite. The report added that the toxins are leached into five soft drink samples from the PET (polyethylene terephthalate) bottles the drinks are contained in. The level of leaching of the toxins increase with the rise in temperature, it added.
The test results have been submitted to Mr Jagdish Prasad, who is the Director General of Health Services and chairman of DTAB by the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health (AIIH&PH) some days ago. In a report submitted by the institute last year, it was found that various medicines packaged in PET bottles contained heavy metals. Prasad did not respond to queries sent by Indian Express, the report said.
“We have received no intimation nor a copy of the cited test reports and without an understanding of the methodology used, would be unable to comment on the reports. Having said that, we would like to reiterate that all our products conform to Food Safety and Standards Regulations. We would like to emphatically reiterate that our products comply with the permissible limits for heavy metals as laid down by these regulations.” responded the PepsiCo India spokesperson. Coca Cola India declined to respond. Queries sent to PET Container Manufacturers Association did not get any reply, the report says.
According to Indian standards, there are no permissible limits for heavy metals in cold drinks, but the tests found Pepsi contains 0.029 milligrams per litre (mg/L), 0.011 mg/L, 0.002 mg/L, 0.017 mg/L and 0.028 mg/L of antimony, lead, cadmium, chromium and DEHP and it has found that the Coca Cola contains 0.006 mg/L, 0.009 mg/L, 0.011 mg/L, 0.026 mg/L and 0.026 mg/L of the aforesaid heavy metals, respectively. The results were same in case of Sprite, Mountain Dew and 7Up also.
It was observed that the leaching of the toxin heavy metals from the PET bottles increases with rise in room temperature. At room temperature, the tests found 0.004 mg/L and 0.007 mg/L of lead in Seven Up and Sprite, respectively, but when the bottles were kept at 40 degree Celsius for 10 days, amount of lead increased to 0.006 mg/L and 0.009 mg/L, respectively.
WHO says lead affects humans badly, where kids are more vulnerable to it, “Lead can have serious consequences for the health of children. At high levels of exposure, lead attacks the brain and central nervous system to cause coma, convulsions and even death. Children who survive severe lead poisoning may be left with mental retardation and behavioural disorders,” the WHO said. “Cadmium exerts toxic effects on the kidney, the skeletal system and the respiratory system and is classified as a human carcinogen,” warns WHO.
Lead and cadmium were listed by the World Health Organisation in their top ten lists of chemicals of ‘major public health concern.’ Chromium, antimony and DEHP are dangerous to humans.
In a study in 2015, the AIIH&PH study conducted on PET bottles used for packaging pharmaceutical preparations were conducted and it was found that antimony, lead, chromium and DEHP had leached into them.
Four bottles of 600 ml were picked by the AIIH&PH for testing and handed over to the National Test House in Kolkata, which is under the Ministry of Consumer Affairs. The study was conducted by AIIH&PH in Kolkata which is under the Union Health Ministry, who have been directed by the DTAB, reported Indian Express.