Beverage Companies Form Lobby Group to Counter Criticism in India

"Lobby Will Lower Health and Safety Standards"

For Immediate Release
July 8, 2010

San Francisco: Beverage companies in India, led by Coca-Cola and Pepsico, have formed an alliance to counter the growing campaigns against the beverage industry.

The Indian Beverage Association (IBA) has been formed to "create a singe point of interaction with the Indian government" and will serve as a lobbying organization modeled after the American Beverage Association (ABA), according to media reports.

"Whether it is health issue or the pollution issue, soft drink companies are the softest targets right from activists to government regulators. So it's high time they that they came together," Arvind Varma, secretary-general of the IBA told the India Today group.

The IBA is expected to work on a number of critical issues facing the beverage industry currently in India, including the growing challenge from farmers objecting to water use by beverage companies, particularly in water stressed areas, water pricing, pollution, food safety, public health issues, marketing to children, labeling, misleading claims in advertisements and taxes.

Campaigns across India have forced regulators in India to take positions on these issues, and regulators are often ill prepared to regulate the industry. As beverage companies expand their markets and production, conflicts are rising and demands for strict enforcement of regulations continue to grow.

Coca-Cola and Pepsico have been the target of campaigns accusing the companies of depleting water resources and pollution. One of Coca-Cola's largest bottling plants in India has been shut down by the government since March 2004. Pepsico was ordered in March this year to reduce its water usage at its plant in Kerala by 65% because of depleted water resources.

The companies and their products have also come under attack by activists in India and globally for the adverse public health impacts, particularly obesity and related health problems. The India Resource Center is gearing up with allies to challenge the nutritional double standards of the food and beverage industries in India.

"While Coca-Cola and Pepsico products are being regulated out of the marketplace in the US and Europe for health reasons, these companies are aggressively marketing the same products in India and China. Such a double standard must be challenged. The health of Indians and Chinese are as valuable as the health of Americans and Europeans," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization.

The formation of the Indian Beverage Association does not bode well for the Indian public, especially if it is modeled after the American Beverage Association.

The New York Times reported on July 2, 2010 that the "American Beverage Association spent $9.4 million in the first four months of the year to oppose New York's soda tax." "All but $120,000 went to Goddard Claussen," a public relations firm which ran a slick media campaign "ignoring academic studies showing that sugar-sweetened beverages are a big source of excess calories in the American diet."

The state of New York had proposed a penny-an-ounce tax on soft drinks to offset the public health care costs from obesity.

"The Indian Beverage Association is a lobbying group that will influence the government to lower standards for protecting our communities, our environment and our health. Instead of India having the highest standards to protect the public interest, the IBA will push for the lowest standards. This is not a good thing for India," said R. Ajayan of the Plachimada Solidarity Committee, a statewide organization in Kerala campaigning against Coca-Cola.

Dabur, Tetra Pak, Pearl Drinks, Bengal Beverages, Red Bull, Jain Irrigation Systems, Bisleri International, Parle Agro, Amul and Godrej are other companies expected to join the IBA, according to the Economic Times.

For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org

Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center +1 415 336 7584 (US)


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