Controversy on Your Plate

Instant convenience Quick-to-serve noodles is a favourite with hostellers. Photo: AFP
Instant convenience Quick-to-serve noodles is a favourite with hostellers.
Photo: AFP

The ‘two-minute’ Maggi needs no introduction. Marketed by Nestle India Ltd, the noodle has been advertised as the quickest and easiest way to make a delicious dish. So when the Food Safety and Drug Administration (FDA) of Uttar Pradesh found Monosodium glutamate (MSG) and excessive quantities of lead while testing samples of the product, the truth was hard to digest.

The examination of two dozen Maggi packets by the FDA had revealed the use of MSG, a flavour enhancer, which can cause headache and nausea, and seven times the permitted quantity of lead.

“We understand that consumers are concerned by reports that the authorities in Uttar Pradesh have found elevated levels of lead in a sample of Maggi noodles. We are fully cooperating with the authorities who are conducting further tests and we are awaiting their results,” a Nestle spokesperson told Tehelka. “We regularly monitor all our raw material for lead, including testing by accredited laboratories which have consistently shown levels of the metal in Maggi noodles to be within permissible limits.”

“We have also submitted samples of Maggi noodles from almost 600 product batches to an external laboratory for independent analysis and we tested samples from almost 1,000 batches at our accredited laboratory. These samples represent around 12.5 crore packets.”

“All the results of 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. The quality and safety of our products are top priorities for us, ” said the spokesperson.

For a company which makes 30 percent of its revenue through Maggi sales, the controversy is a big blow. Maggi has already been banned in Kerala and Haryana has passed orders for testing the product.

This is not the first time that a food product has come under the scanner of government officials.

Last year, Amitabh Maitra, a resident of Kolkata, found worms in the Cadburys chocolate bar he bit into. Maitra took to Facebook to express his angst. “Yesterday I bought two Cadbury Silk orange Peel from Big Bazaar, Liluaah RD Mall store. See what I found in one of the chocolates, WORMS. When I called them to report, they treated me as if nothing had happened. How irresponsible and disgusting (sic),” he wrote in the post which went viral.

Back in 2003, worms were reportedly found in chocolate bars of Cadbury sold in Maharashtra and Kerala. Cadbury did not respond to calls and emails by Tehelka.

On June 2014, a Delhi businessman Yaser Arafat was shocked to find worms in a piece of chicken that he had bought from a KFC outlet in Desh Bandhu road. He sent the meal to the food safety wing for inspection.

“The issue where a worm was allegedly found in KFC chicken last year was an attempt to malign the reputation of our brand,” said KFC in its statement to Tehelka. “We cook all our chicken products at a minimum of 170 degree Celsius and hold it at a minimum of 60 degree Celsius. This ensures 100 percent food safety at all times and there is no possibility of any contamination.”

In December 2014, the company found itself in another controversy when the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) found artificial colour in its dish ‘Rizo Rice’. KFC had then issued a statement saying, “The recent news reports on KFC rice being unsafe is a case of misinformation. We only use natural colour in our Rizo Rice meals (beta carotene) which is sourced from reputed international suppliers.”

Popular soft drinks too have had their own share of brickbats. In 2003, Centre of Science and Environment claimed that major cola brands contained harmful pesticides like Lindane, DDT, and Malathion. Following the report, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh conducted tests and banned the sale of the soft drinks in schools and government offices. Rajasthan and Punjab also subsequently banned the products. Pepsi and Coca-Cola had strongly rebutted the allegations.


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