In a major setback to Nestle India, a leading FMCG company, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), a Statutory Authority established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 has directed the company to withdraw and recall all the 9 approved variants of its Maggi Instant Noodles from the market having been found unsafe and hazardous for human consumption, and stop further production, processing, import, distribution and sale of the said product with immediate effect.
In a statement Y.S. Malik Chief Executive Officer, FSSAI, noted that the authority has found three major violations as of now, viz. (a) presence of Lead detected in the product in excess of the maximum permissible levels of 2.5 ppm, (b) misleading labelling information on the package reading “No added Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)”, and (c) release of a non-standardised food product in the market, viz. “Maggi Oats Masala Noodles with Tastemaker” without risk assessment and grant of product approval.
Regarding the claim by the company on “No added MSG, Malik noted that it is in violation of the FSS (Packaging & Labelling) Regulations, 2011. He further said in note that it is amply clear that this sub-regulation prohibits any other information on the label other than what is otherwise provided for in the FSSR. It defies the common understanding as to why the company has to make this assertion when it is not required to do so. The apparent reason for using such information on the label is driven by an undue commercial advantage/ benefit to create an erroneous impression in the minds of consumers regarding the character of the product.
Reacting to the developments, Dr B Sesikeran MD, former Director, National Institute of Nutrition pointed out that “With regards to MSG I would blame Nestle since they resorted to negative labeling of NO ADDED MSG. This was not needed. MSG has no safety issue. JECFA (Joint WHO/FAO expert committee on Food Additives) has twice reviewed worldwide data and all the publications on negative aspects of MSG and found no substance and hence no safety issue even at levels much higher than what we consume in India. We have in fact recommended even the removal of the NOT FOR CHILDREN BELOW 2 year clause since there is no scientific basis for such a clause. Billions of people in the entire east consume MSG by the tons.”
Dr B Sesikeran further observed that Nature itself uses Glutamate for flavor like in breast milk (22mg / 100Gms) or tomatos (140 mg / 100 Gms). Any protein containing food has lots of glutamate. There is no difference physiologically or analytically between natural glutamate versus MSG. If they do have a negative label it indirectly gives the message that MSG is harmful when that is not true. Misusing a disproved scientific fact as a sales promotional issue is ethically wrong and now they are caught in their own web.”
The authority has also directed the company to withdraw and recall the food product, “Maggie Oats Masala Noodles with Tastemaker” for which risk/ safety assessment has not been undertaken and Product Approval has not been granted.
Nestle India was further called upon to show cause within a period of 15 days from June 5, 2015 as to why the Product Approval granted by FSSAI in respect of “Instant Noodles with Tastemaker – (9 variants)” vide its letter dated July 4, 2013 be not withdrawn. The company is further directed to submit a compliance report in this behalf within a period of three days and furnish progress reports on the recall process on a daily basis thereafter till the process is completed.
It may be noted that the Commissioners of Food Safety of various states, viz. the Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, J&K, Assam and a few others are reported to have passed orders prohibiting the said products for varying periods within their respective jurisdictions.