The move comes in the wake of the Maggi crisis, which kicked off when a state official found excess levels of lead and monosodium glutamate in a sample of two-minute noodles with Tastemaker.
Since then, more states and other Asian countries have banned the sale of Indian-made Maggi noodles.
Nestlé has announced its own tests have not revealed excess substances. Global chief executive Paul Bulcke, visiting India last weekend on a charm offensive and to meet with regulators, said that the company had tested more than 1,000 batches of noodles and found the India-produced Maggi to be “safe and well within the regulatory limits”.
However, Indian authorities are seriously concerned about their own findings and intent to continue their monitoring efforts.
“Various test results on Maggi and some other similar products have raised serious health concerns,” said the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in a statement.
“In view of the same, it would be advisable to draw regulatory samples for similar products for which product approvals have been granted by the FSSAI.”
Local brands wait for the results
Ruchi’s Koka instant noodles, three variants of CG Foods’ Wai Wai noodles, 10 varieties of GlaxoSmithkline’s Foodies, three of ITC’s Sunfeast Yuppee noodles, Indo Nissin’s Top Ramen atta masala and AA Nutrition’s Yummy chicken and vegetable noodles are all being tested. Nestlé India’s macaroni and penne pasta lines are also under observation.
Reports on the brands must be submitted by June 19, and any other instant noodle brands will not be allowed for sale, the FSSAI said.
“The safety of all other such products in these categories has not been assessed as per product approval procedures. As such, the same are unauthorised and illegal and cannot be intended for human consumption.”
The was “ensuring that such products are recalled, removed from the market and destroyed”, though it clarified that Knorr’s Soupy Noodles would not be included in the prohibition as it was classed as a soup-based product.
Other brands are likely to be added to the testing queue, with other categories to be investigated.
Nielson, the market analyst, estimates India’s consumer packaged goods market to be worth US$40bn, with packaged foods accounting for the largest category with 53% of the overall market.
Consumer confidence taking a hit
The current Maggi crisis has been raging since May, causing widespread public outrage especially in recent days that is being reflected in India’s newspapers.
“India has a long way to go on food safety,” opined one leader, while another said that the banning of Maggi from sale across India “should serve as a wake-up call for a massive clean-up act” against “all kinds of processed foods”.
In an op-ed in DNA, Devinder Sharma, a food and trade policy analyst, called for a “long overdue” check for quality to rebuild consumer confidence in food safety.
In a glimmer of good news, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said it had tested Indian-made Maggi noodles and found they met local all food safety standards.
Though it had earlier this week halted imports of the noodles from the subcontinent, the AVA has now informed Singaporean importers that they can resume the sale of Maggi noodles.
the authorities also reportedly tested Maggi instant noodles produced in other countries as well, finding they also met local food safety requirements.