A controversy surrounding Nestle's Maggi noodles has been spreading panic across India after initial test results by the Uttar Pradesh Department of Food and Drug Administration showed harmful levels of monosodium glutamate (MSG) and lead in Maggi noodles, a widely consumed food line.
In April, the UP FDA asked Nestle India to withdraw a batch of Maggi noodles manufactured in February 2014 after noodles were found to have high levels of added MSG, a taste enhancer, and lead beyond permissible limits.
Nestle India said that local authorities in Lucknow had asked it to recall one batch of Maggi Noodles, around 200,000 packs that had already reached their best before date the previous November.
Further tests have been conducted by a number of states across India and Bangladesh. Results in Delhi this week officially declared Maggi unsafe for consumption after 13 samples of Maggi masala noodles were taken by authorities in the capital, out of which 10 were found to have excessive lead.
Furthermore, five samples did not have labelling to indicate the presence of MSG, a misbranding offence for a legal requirement.
The Delhi NCR government has since decided to file a case against Nestlé India.
State-run retail outlets in Kerala were ordered to withdraw these products after the Delhi test results, though the Maharashtra FDA did not found any harmful levels of lead in Maggi noodles after initial testing early this week, according to IBN.
But the authority did seek re-verification of test results from labs in Pune and the final results are expected to come out later this week. Likewise, the Karnataka FDA also initially concluded that Maggi was not unsafe. However, it asked for re-verification of that result from its Bangalore labs.
Goa has declared Maggi noodles safe for eating, and Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institute found no harmful ingredients in five brands of noodles, including Maggi.
Other states to have begun testing of samples but which have not yet announced results are West Bengal, Uttarakhand, Gujarat, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Odisha, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Swiss multinational giant Nestle sells 5.2bn Maggi noodle packs across the world in 130 countries every year.
Scientists say that lead in manufactured food products may come from the raw materials, including water, flavouring material, packaging or the curling agent, though the World Health Organisation has said that there is no known level of lead that is considered safe.
MSG is used in manufactured food to make it tastier as it stimulates the nervous system. It is commonly used in “Indian Chinese” food, and glutamate is present in many natural foods like tomato, mushroom, fungi and cheese.
FSSAI to help police food advertising advertising standards
The Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) has agreed with the Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to target misleading food and beverage ads, Business Standard reports.
The move follows a broader arrangement with the department of consumer affairs three months ago, allowing the ASCI to act against misleading ads on an complaints website.
In the case of the FSSAI, any complaint received by the food safety regulator will see the ASCI stepping in and writing to the advertiser concerned to modify the ad based on its prescribed guidelines.
In the event the advertiser does not comply, the FSSAI will step in to take action in an approach is expected to act as a strong deterrent against errant advertisers.
India’s rains downgraded as economy looks on with concern
The India Meteorological Department (IMD) has revised its rainfall prediction for this year’s monsoon from “below normal” to “deficient”, science and technology minister Harsh Vardhan said.
This means a reduction in the expected scale of this year’s monsoon from 93% to 88%.
It had been anticipated that the rains would be light this year on account of El Niño conditions persisting during the monsoon season, though this change in outlook is significant. In the IMD’s scale, 90-96% of rainfall is classified as "below normal”, with 88% lagging far behind ideal water levels.
This also casts a shadow on India's growth. Raghuram Rajan, governor of the Reserve Bank of India, called for wise food management to lower the chances of inflationary effects arising from a poor monsoon.
Rajan said: "Assuming reasonable food management, inflation is expected to be pulled down by base effects till August but to start rising thereafter to about 6.0% by January 2016 – slightly higher than the projections in April.
“Putting more weight on the IMD’s monsoon projections than the more optimistic projections of private forecasters as well as accounting for the possible inflationary effects of the increases in the service tax rate to 14%, the risks to the central trajectory are tilted to the upside.”