THE MAGGI CONTROVERSY
A Officer of the Uttar Pradesh Food Safety and Drug Administration based in Barabanki ordered tests on a dozen samples of Nestle’s Maggi instant noodles at the state laboratory in Gorakhpur, and repeat tests at the Central Food Laboratory in Kolkata, a referral lab. The Gorakhpur lab tested for monosodium glutamate (MSG) to check the claim of Nestle that Maggi had none. Both tests found MSG; in addition, the Kolkata lab found “very high quantities” of lead — 17.2 parts per million. Based on the findings, UP FDA filed a complaint in a Barabanki court. Food Minister Ram Vilas Paswan directed the statutory regulator, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), to conduct nationwide tests on Maggi.
|FOOD SAFETY AND STANDARDS AUTHORITY OF INDIA
It has been established under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. FSSAI has been created for laying down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption. The Act also aims to establish a single reference point for all matters relating to food safety and standards, by moving from multi- level, multi- departmental control to a single line of command. To this effect, the Act establishes an independent statutory Authority – the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India with head office at Delhi. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the State Food Safety Authorities shall enforce various provisions of the Act. Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India is the Administrative Ministry for the implementation of FSSAI.
WHY DO NOODLES HAVE MONOSODIUM GLUTAMATE AND LEAD?
MSG stimulates the nervous system and makes food appear tastier. It is widely used in “Indian Chinese” food. The US FDA says MSG is “generally recognized as safe”, the same as salt, pepper, vinegar and baking powder. Glutamate is present in many natural foods including tomato, mushroom, fungi and cheese. In extreme cases, MSG may cause some reactions in the body; however, researchers have found no definitive evidence of a link between MSG and these symptoms. The time and frequency of exposure has a bearing too. Even if a product is satisfying MSG limits, and one is consuming it in large quantities or very frequently, it may be harmful.
It is the sodium salt of Glutamic acid, a naturally occurring non-essential amino acids. Glutamate is found is tomatoes, cheese, mushroom and other vegetables and fruits. Monosodium glutamate is classified as a food additive and regulations are in place to determine how and when it can be added to foods. Typically, monosodium glutamate is added to savoury prepared and processed foods such as frozen foods, spice mixes, canned and dry soups, salad dressings and meat or fish-based products. In some countries, it is used as a table-top seasoning.
WHAT DOES NESTLE SAY?
Nestle India said that they do not add MSG to Maggi noodles sold in India. However, they use hydrolysed groundnut protein, onion powder and wheat flour to make Maggi noodles sold in India, which all contain glutamate. They believe that the authorities’ tests may have detected glutamate, which occurs naturally in many foods. FSSAI-approved testing methods for MSG only test for glutamic acid, which is a component of several foods, including hydrolised vegetable proteins. Tests in India are not as sensitive as those in developed countries, where individual sources of every component can be identified. Nestle India has also said that it regularly monitors for lead, including testing by accredited laboratories. All the results of these internal and external tests show that lead levels are well within the limits specified by food regulations and that Maggi noodles are safe to eat.
MAGGI GONE AND BACK
On 5 June 2015, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) ordered a recall of all nine approved variants of Maggi instant noodles and oats masala noodles from India, suggesting them unsafe and hazardous for human consumption.[On 6 June 2015 the Central Government of India banned nationwide sale of Maggi noodles for an indefinite period. Nepal indefinitely banned Maggi over concerns about lead levels in the product. Maggi noodles then had been withdrawn in five African nations- Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and South Sudan by a super-market chain after a complaint by the Consumer Federation of Kenya. In August, tests performed by the US health regulator FDA showed no dangerous lead levels in the products.[ On 13 August 2015, the nationwide ban was struck down by the Bombay high court. The court stated that proper procedure was not followed in issuing the ban and called into question the test results, as the samples were not tested at authorized laboratories accredited to the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL). Five months after it was banned due to alleged presence of excessive lead content, Nestle India re-launched its popular Maggi noodles brand in India in tie-up with e-commerce site Snapdeal. The company is presently manufacturing Maggi noodles at three locations – Nanjangud (Karnataka), Moga (Punjab) and Bicholim (Goa). Nestle India said all samples of Maggi Noodles Masala have been cleared by three National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories-accredited labs as mandated by the Bombay High Court.
After so much of controversy and losing faith in consumers, maggi returned with a bang. Snapdeal sold 60000 maggi kits in five minutes.