The Indian government just delivered a blow to soda drinkers around the world. They commissioned a study that uncovered five toxins in the PET soda bottles of five major brands, all owned by either Coca Cola or PepsiCo. Heavy metals such as lead and cadmium are among the offending toxins.
India’s Drugs Technical Advisory Board (DTAB) instructed the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Heath (AIIH&PH), based in Kolkata, to conduct the study. AIIH&PH found lead, antimony, cadmium, DEHP, and chromium in Pepsi, Coca Cola, Sprite, Mountain Dew, and 7UP. Coca Cola owns Sprite, and PepsiCo owns Mountain Dew and 7UP. The sugary drinks were all packaged in polyethylene terephthalate, or PET, bottles. Even worse, the researchers found as temperatures rose around the bottles, more toxins leached into the drinks.
For their data, the researchers drew from four 600 milliliter bottles of each brand. In a Pepsi bottle, for example, they found 0.029 milligrams per liter (mg/L) 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.
The Indian Express reached out to Coca Cola India, which did not provide an answer, and PepsiCo India for comment. A PepsiCo spokesperson said all their products “conform to Food Safety and Standards Regulations” and they wished to “emphatically reiterate” their products complied “with the permissible limits for heavy metals as laid down by these regulations.”
There’s a problem with that – according to The Indian Express, “there are no permissible limits for heavy metals in cold drinks.” Indian government officials reportedly acknowledged India lacks standards for “safe plastic packaging” as some countries have.
Exposure to heavy metals can lead to major health problems. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), cadmium and lead are two of 10 chemicals of “major public health concern.” The other three offending toxins also can result in negative side effects. AIIH&PH conducted another study last year that found heavy metals in medicines contained inside PET bottles.