Pepsi puts Indian chairman in the spotlight over pesticides claim

NEW DELHI, Sept 10, 2006 (AFP) – US cola giant PepsiCo has put the head of its India operations in front of TV cameras as it opens a new front in its drive to counter charges of high pesticide levels in its colas. A just released ad shows PepsiCo India chairman Rajeev Bakshi walking a young man through a plant purification process and saying the colas carry his “personal guarantee” they are safe “for you, for me and for my children.”

“Our consumer research and feedback indicated consumers wanted the company to directly reassure them our products are completely safe,” Bakshi told AFP.

The ad is the latest tactic in Pepsi’s fight-back since a New Delhi environmental group last month released a report claiming high levels of toxic chemicals in 57 drink products from 25 Indian Pepsi and Coca-Cola plants.

The allegations were splashed on newspaper frontpages and prompted southern Kerala state to ban Coke and Pepsi while five other states barred them from sale in schools and government offices.

A national ban was demanded by the federal opposition while protesters went on cola-bottle smashing sprees.

The cola rivals, which account for 99 percent of India’s huge soft drinks market, have insisted through