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article imageNestle to have its day in court over unsafe lead levels

By Karen Graham     Aug 12, 2015 in Food
Swiss food giant Nestle lost out on avoiding going to court over its Maggi noodles debacle. The Indian government is seeking damages of close to $100 million, claiming "unfair trade practices."
The Indian government said on Wednesday it is seeking redress from the country's top consumer court, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), which only has semi-judicial powers, asking for 6,400 million rupees ($98.6 million) in damages from the Indian affiliate of the Swiss food giant.
"Our complaint is over their unfair trade practices and the court will now issue them notices to hear their response," G. Gurcharan, additional secretary at the Ministry of Consumer Affairs, told AFP news agency, according to aljazeera.com.
Unacceptable levels of lead and MSG found in Maggi noodles
On May 16, 2015, the Times of India reported that Nestle's 2-minute Maggi noodles had come under regulatory scrutiny after samples of the popular product were found to contain unacceptable levels of lead and monosodium glutamate (MSG).
The Lucknow Food Safety and Drug Administration began an inquiry and wrote to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in New Delhi seeking to cancel the licence for Maggi. This inquiry started what turned out to be a heated and troubling argument between the Indian government's regulatory agency and Nestle.
The FSSAI was also asked to order sampling of Maggi noodles across the country, said officials. "We have tested Maggi samples at Kolkata's referral laboratory. The test results show that there are added monosodium glutamate and excess of lead. We have ordered further sampling," FSDA Assistant Commissioner Vijay Bahadur Yadav told the Times of India.
Needless to say, Nestle was surprised at the supposedly accurate test results, saying they did not add MSG to the product, and questioning the lead results because they monitor lead content regularly as part of the regulatory requirements, adding, "tests at our own accredited laboratories as well as those by independent external accredited laboratories have consistently shown the results to be well within the permissible limit."
But according to Yadav, test results showed Maggi samples contained 17 parts per million lead, while the permissible limit is 0.01ppm. Nestle, on the other hand, says its records show lead content is negligible and less than 1 percent of the fixed limit.
Maggi noodles' popularity goes from bad to worse
With all the bad publicity over Maggi noodles being dangerous to consumer's health, it wasn't surprising that on June 6, 2015, India's Central Government banned the nationwide sale of Maggi noodles for an indefinite period. The ban led to Nepal banning the sale of Maggi, as well as five African nations, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and South Sudan after a supermarket chain issued a complaint to the Consumer Federation of Kenya.
In the meantime, while all the banning of the product was going on, Nestle India went ahead and destroyed 400 million tons of Maggi noodles worth 3.2 billion rupee's ($50 million). Another interesting twist to the Maggi noodles story came to light recently. It seems the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) refused the import of Maggi noodles in January 2015 for similar reasons, according to the Times of India, but that is not the true story.
According to Just Food and other sources, including the Wall Street Journal, some Maggi noodles products were refused entry into the U.S. because the labeling did not comply with U.S. labeling requirements. Not only that but importers were attempting to bring them into the US via third parties in January this year.
It all comes down to a challenge of the ban by Nestle India in the Mumbai high court. We will know the verdict on Thursday.
More about maggi noodles, Nestle, $100 million, MSG, damage to consumers