Noodles brand Maggi got into more trouble on Wednesday after the Centre lodged a complaint with the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission against the Indian arm of the Swiss manufacturer, Nestle, and the Delhi government imposed a 15-day ban on the sale of the product.
Several States, including Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Kerala, West Bengal and Odisha, have decided to send samples for testing, while Army canteens too have stopped sale. The Future Group’s 700 food outlets, including Big Bazaar, have also taken them off their shelves.
Union Health Minister J.P. Nadda said on Wednesday that his Ministry would take appropriate action against instant noodles brand Maggi, based on the reports from all the States.
“We are waiting for the reports from the States. We will have a meeting and accordingly action will be taken. No laxity will be shown,” Mr. Nadda said.
Meanwhile, the Central government’s 300 Kendriya Bhandar outlets and Future Group’s 700 food outlets, including Big Bazaar, have taken the product off their shelves.
The Delhi government ordered the 15-day sale ban after 10 of the 13 samples sent for testing were found to be containing monosodium glutamate (MSG) and lead in excess of the prescribed limit.
“Five samples were found to have high levels of MSG. Of the 13 samples we lifted, 10 packets of Maggi had lead content beyond the prescribed limit of 2.5 pm. On an average, the lead content was found to be 3.5 pm,” said Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain.
He added that Nestle India has been asked to recall its entire stock in the market.
“Action will be initiated against Nestle for selling unsafe product and a fine maybe imposed on it for misbranding,” the Minister said, adding that sale of the product will be allowed only after a review.
Union Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said: “This is a very serious issue as it concerns the safety of consumers. Therefore, for the first time, the government has suo motu complained to the Consumer Commission to take cognisance of the matter on behalf of a class of consumers.”
Asked about the ban imposed by certain States, Mr. Paswan said: “If States impose a ban on the product, what can the Centre do?”
Branded chips under the scanner
Some other products such as Kurkure and branded chips have also come under the scanner following the Maggi controversy.
“Several companies do not adhere to food safety standards in India. There should be continuous market surveillance for safety standards,” an official source said.
Maggi samples in Uttarakhand and Uttar Pradesh were found to contain higher levels of lead and taste enhancer MSG than the prescribed limits. The MSG is released from the ingredients that go into the making of the masala in the noodles packet. “To say ‘no added MSG’ is misleading,” the source said.
“We have already issued circulars for taking the product off the shelves in all Kendriya Bhandars. Unsold Maggi noodles will be returned to the manufacturer,’’ Kendriya Bhandar managing director Jagdeesh Bhatia told The Hindu.
A Future Group spokesman said that in the interest of consumers, the retail major has stopped selling the brand in all its stores for the time being. “We will wait for more clarity from the authorities to take any further action,” the spokesperson added.
Maggi samples tested in Goa, however, have been found safe for consumption. Goa Food and Drugs Administration deputy director Jyoti Sardesai said they had tested five samples so far and they have turned out negative. Test results of two more samples are awaited, she added.
Nestle has been claiming that the lead levels in its product are under prescribed limits in its own sample tests, but has been silent on MSG.
The Centre for Science and Environment has welcomed the initiative for testing processed food for contaminants.