The Minister of State for Health, Faggan Singh Kulaste has announced in Parliament that heavy metals like lead, cadmium and chromium have been found in soft drinks like Sprite, Mountain Dew, 7 UP, Pepsi and Coca Cola. Samples of these soft drinks had been sent to the Kolkata National Test House for investigation and the samples were found to contain these heavy metals. The Drug technical Advisory has also been carrying out a study ad had found these toxins in Coca Cola and PepsiCo brands.
The soft drink giants have said that the reports are unsubstantiated and their drinks are completely safe. However, the All India Institute of Hygiene and Public Health, Kolkata has confirmed that the samples were found to contain lead, cadmium and chromium. A study carried out by the Institute found that these toxins were leached into the soft drinks from the bottles in which these soft drinks were packaged. PepsiCo has stated that they are in compliance with FSSAI regulations and heavy metal content in their soft drinks is well within the limits as laid down in the food safety regulations.
Some time back a government study had stated that the PET bottles were found to contain at least five different types of toxins. Leaching of these toxins increased with rise in temperature. It is possible that the toxins in the PET bottles is leaching into the soft drinks because sometimes retailers leave display stands with these soft drinks out in the open, in bright sunlight, so passers-by can see them. If these bottles are left in bright sunlight for days on end it is possible that some toxins leach into the soft drinks.
About Heavy metals
Heavy metals are found naturally in air, water and soil but human activities like mining, industrial activities, agricultural activities like use of fertilizers, fungicides wastewater use for irrigation, solid waste disposal and exhaust from vehicles is leading to an increase of heavy metals in the environment. Heavy metals are non-biodegradable and so they remain in the environment and from where they reach the human body through food and water. These heavy metals can accumulate in the human body for long periods of time, in the various organs, leading to chronic toxic effect. In developing countries, like India, which already have a population that is deprived of nutrients, the effect of heavy metals can be come all the more serious. This is the reason that the FSSAI has prescribed the limits of heavy metals in foods.
Heavy metals have been studied extensively for their effect on human health by international bodies like the WHO. Heavy metals can reach the human body from the environment as well as from food contaminated with heavy metals. Food and beverages may be contaminated due to use of certain raw materials already containing heavy metals. Accordingly, it is the human diet, besides environment which is a major source of heavy metal exposure. Keeping food safety in mind it becomes imperative to monitor and reduce dietary intake of heavy metals.
The long term exposure to foods containing heavy metals that are above prescribed limits can have a negative impact on health. Since soft drinks are widely consumed they could expose consumers to higher intake of heavy metals. Therefore, food and beverage companies should ensure quality manufacturing and take steps so that all processes prevent heavy metal contamination and ensure consumers are safe from this health hazard.