In September, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had inaugurated the 110 acre India Food Park in Tumkur, Bangalore in September. Here he had urged soft drink giants PepsiCo and Coca Cola to put 5% of natural juice in their fizzy drinks so that it could benefit Indian farmers. Farmers would make some money, would not have to look for markets or have to throw away their fruit.
The soft drink companies had been all set to adhere to the PM’s request. However, they find that there are certain regulations in the food act which are posing a problem in mixing fruit juice and carbonated drinks. Unless certain changes are made to the regulations dealing with standards this does not seem possible. One of the major hurdles seems to be the preservative content. Since fruit juices can be affected microbiologically by contaminants they would require a higher preservative allowance to maintain the desired shelf life.
At present Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 has a very stringent 0.1ppb for individual pesticides and 0.5 ppb for total pesticides for carbonated water. However, the same 0.1 ppb would have to be changed for carbonated soft drink mixed with juice.
In a letter written to the Food Processing Ministry, the Indian Beverage Association has pointed out the regulatory challenges they are facing to blend juice with carbonated drinks. It seems that under the present mandatory regulations they will not be able to meet standards. The letter states that if 10% fruit juice is mixed as suggested under mandatory regulations in the carbonated fruit beverage category then it could cause product instability.
The cola companies feel that for the PM’s suggestions would bear fruit only when some changes are made in the existing regulations under the Food Safety and Standards Act 2006. Some of the changes they would like are
- to have a more efficient and faster product approval turnaround time.
- to reduce the minimum level of total soluble substances in carbonated fruit drinks from the existing 10% to 3%.
Since the companies want their products to be on the shelves by next summer they would like the regulatory framework to be amended as soon as possible. Prime Minister had asked the companies to mix juices in 5% of their carbonated drinks. Through this suggestion the fizzy drink companies are planning on targeting the health conscious consumer as they have often been accused of having higher calories in their drink formulas.