Maggi row: Processed food is rarely tested for contamination in govt labs

Lead can cause paralysis, damage to the brain, kidney and reproductive and immune systems

GN Bureau | June 6, 2015


#maggi   #contamination fssai   #nestle   #lead   #paul bulcke  

Processed food is rarely tested in government laboratories in India. Instead they test milk, milk products, edible oil and water for adulteration and that is the reason why Maggi and other processed food items escaped contamination test.

Meanwhile, Nestlé India has been given time till Monday to submit a compliance report by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). The country’s food safety regulator put out an order recalling Maggi noodles from all states, saying it was “unsafe and hazardous for human consumption’’.  It has also asked the company to submit progress reports on the recall of Maggi noodles daily.

FSSAI has also alleged Nestlé India of violating the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, in relation to Maggie Oats Masala Noodles, as the company had failed to respond on “safety or risk assessment” issues raised by the regulator in February. According to the order, Nestlé India had started selling the product without a “product approval”. Hence, the company has been told to withdraw Maggie Oats Masala Noodle.

With the issue assuming alarming proportions, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Paul Bulcke of the largest food company in the world (revenue-wise) came down to India to contain the allegations of contamination in its fast-selling Maggi noodles.

He held a press conference and also met the officials of the FSSAI. The Nestlé CEO has maintained that Maggi was safe but the product was being withdrawn “temporarily’’ from India owing to “unfounded concerns” that had “shaken’’ consumer trust. “What concerns me is how it [the current controversy] is going to impact the trust that Indian people have in Nestlé and Maggi.’’

“In this environment of distrust among consumers and authorities, we decided to withdraw Maggi as a precautionary measure,” he said.

Maggi is estimated generate Rs 2,000 crore in the country. “We will do whatever it takes to have Maggi back on shelves soon,” the CEO said.

FSSAI has ordered Nestlé India to withdraw and recall all the nine approved variants of Maggi instant noodles from across the country. The company has also been told to desist from any further production, processing, import, distribution and sale of Maggi with immediate effect. The regulator show-caused the company to present its case in 15 days, failing which FSSAI might withdraw the “product approval” of the nine variants issued by it in June 2013.

The order listed out the ailments that heavy metals such as lead could cause, such as anaemia, paralysis, damage to the brain, kidney and reproductive and immune systems.

Nestlé India’s 30 per cent revenue is from Maggi sales, which was launched in 1984. In the instant-noodles category, the company has about 70 per cent market share. Maggi is made at five plants in Uttarakhand, Punjab, Goa, Karnataka and Himachal Pradesh.

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