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Maggi 2-Minute Noodles, one of the largest and most loved food brands that defines the Instant Noodles category in India, is at the receiving end as the food safety authorities in Uttar Pradesh have recently found high level of lead and Monosodium glutamate (MSG) beyond permissible limits.
Initiating an enquiry, the Lucknow Food Safety and Drug Administration has written to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in New Delhi to order sampling of the product from across the country to check its quality as prescribed on the label.
On the contrary Nestle India noted that Maggi 2-Minute Noodles brings 10% Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) of Protein and 20% RDA of Calcium in each serve (75g). With a reduction of over 27% salt per serve, less than 0.2% Trans Fats and no added MSG’s Maggi Noodles has focused on providing a healthier meal, without compromising on the great taste to the consumer.
Reacting to the concerns of the authorities, Nestle India posted a message saying,” We have strict food safety and quality controls in place for all raw materials used to make Maggi Noodles. These include comprehensive testing to ensure that our products comply with all applicable food safety laws and our own high standards of quality and safety before they reach our consumers. We are aware of reports that tests by the local authorities have detected MSG in a pack of Maggi Noodles. The authorities are continuing with their investigation and at the same time we have also submitted product samples to an independent accredited laboratory and will share the results with the authorities. We do not add MSG to Maggi Noodles and our label declarations are as per local regulation.”
The company further observed, “We use raw materials in Maggi Noodles which can contain naturally occurring Glutamate. It is important to note that many agricultural commodities like Onion, Peas, Tomatoes, etc. contain glutamate. This could be confused with commercially added MSG. Glutamate is safe to consume. We are also aware of the reports of elevated levels of lead in a pack of Maggi Noodles analyzed by the authorities. We regularly monitor for lead as part of our stringent quality control processes, including testing by accredited laboratories. These tests have consistently shown lead levels in Maggi Noodles to be within permissible limits. We have explained this to authorities while they investigate the matter further.”
According to Euromonitor International, Nestlé India Ltd is the leader in the Indian noodles market with a 63% market value share. Its Maggi brand was the most entrenched instant noodle brand in India in 2014. This is mainly because of its widespread distribution network and consumer loyalty towards it for being a pioneer in the noodle category in India.
Euromonitor International further reported that the instant noodle category is set to witness higher competitive intensity in 2015 with ITC Ltd announcing its plan to set up shop in different parts of India. This development will seriously challenge Nestlé’s and Indo Nissin’s stronghold in the category in the coming years. Sunfeast Yippee is already the second most popular brand available in small and independent store across India, as Nissin’s distribution network has not yet matched the two corporate giants.
Uses and safety of Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
Pure MSG is reported not to have a pleasant taste until it is combined with a savory aroma. The basic sensory function of MSG is attributed to its ability to enhance savory taste-active compounds when added in the proper concentration. The optimum concentration varies by food; in clear soup, the pleasure score rapidly falls with the addition of more than one gram of MSG per 100 ml. There is also an interaction between MSG and salt (sodium chloride) and other umami substances, such as nucleotides.
MSG can be used to reduce the intake of sodium, which contributes to hypertension, heart disease and stroke. With appropriate MSG use, salt can be reduced by 30 to 40% without a perceived reduction in saltiness. The sodium content (in mass percent) of MSG—12%—is about one-third of that in sodium chloride (39%). Although other salts of glutamate have been used in low-salt soups, they are less palatable than MSG.
MSG has been used for more than 100 years to season food, with a number of studies conducted on its safety. International and national bodies governing food additives currently consider MSG safe for human consumption as a flavor enhancer. An MSG symptom complex was originally called “Chinese restaurant syndrome” when Robert Ho Man Kwok reported symptoms he felt after an American-Chinese meal. Kwok suggested possible reasons for his symptoms, including alcohol (from cooking with wine), sodium and MSG; however, a number of symptoms have become associated with MSG. The anecdotal list of non-specific symptoms has grown. Under normal conditions, humans can metabolize relatively large quantities of glutamate. The median lethal dose (LD50) is between 15 and 18 g/kg body weight in rats and mice, respectively, five times greater than the LD50 of salt (3 g/kg in rats). The use of MSG as a food additive and the natural level of glutamic acid in foods are not toxicological concerns in humans.