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The All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health (AIIH&PH), based in Kolkata, recently commissioned a study that discovered five toxins in the PET soda bottles of five major brands, delivering a major blow to soda drinkers around the world.

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The heavy metals, which were found in two multinational companies’ cold drinks (Pepsico and Coca-Cola), include: Antimony, Lead, Chromium, Cadmium, Compound DEHP or Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate.

India’s Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) instructed the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Heath (AIIH&PH) to perform the study, leading to the discovering of antimony, cadmium, DEHP, and chromium in Pepsi, Coca Cola, Sprite, Mountain Dew, and 7UP. Coca Cola owns Sprite, while PepsiCo owns Mountain Dew and 7UP. The sweet beverages were all packaged in polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, bottles, the toxins from which researchers found also leached into the drinks in warmer temperatures.

To collect their data, the researchers analyzed four 600 milliliter bottles of each brand. They found that a Pepsi bottle, for instance, had 0.029 milligrams per liter of antimony, 0.011 mg/L of lead, 0.002 mg/L of cadmium, 0.017 mg/L of chromium, and 0.028 mg/L of DEHP.

Yet a PepsiCo spokesperson said they were well within legal limits:

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.

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The Indian Express has found what they believe to be significant holes in PepsiCo’s comments, however, saying “there are no permissible limits for heavy metals in cold drinks.” Indian government officials supposedly admitted to India’s lack of standards for “safe plastic packaging,” which are clearly implemented in many other countries.

The Indian Express also reached out to Coca Cola India for comments, but they refused to provide any, as did the PET manufacturers. Coca Cola India did send a statement via email to The Wire on Thursday evening, however:

We have not received any communication or notice from any of the concerned government departments pertaining to testing of our products and have learnt about the subject only through the said newspaper report. We would like to reiterate that all our products including those referred in this report are absolutely safe and well within the safety norms prescribed, including  those for heavy metals, by the Indian regulatory bodies . The PET packaging is safely used across the world in similar and more extreme weather conditions without any food safety issue. We will be able to comment in details once we receive the said report.

Heavy metal exposure can result in serious health issues. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that cadmium and lead are two of 10 chemicals that pose a “major public health concern,” while the other toxins in question can have unpleasant side effects.

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