Mixed Maggi news for Nestlé as FDA gives all clear

By Joseph James Whitworth

- Last updated on GMT

Picture: Nestlé Quality Assurance Centre, Moga, Nestlé India
Picture: Nestlé Quality Assurance Centre, Moga, Nestlé India

Related tags Maggi noodles Food and drug administration Food standards agency

Nestlé India’s Maggi noodles have been cleared by one Indian lab but failed tests in another as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has given them the green light.

The noodles were deemed safe after testing in Goa but another sample taken by a lab in Lucknow revealed higher than permitted lead levels, according to Indian media reports.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) also quashed rumours that the safe tests from Goa meant the ban on the popular product, in place since June 5, was lifted.

Awaiting Bombay High Court decision

Nestlé India said its information is only through media reports that the FSSAI approved laboratory of Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) found Maggi noodles in compliance with food safety standards on testing of five samples sent by Goa Food and Drug Administration.

It is still waiting for judgement of the Bombay High Court and as the matter is sub-judice, said it cannot comment further.

Regarding the US FDA tests, the firm said: “We have learnt from our official importer in the US, House of Spices, that the US Food and Drug Administration has tested several shipments of Maggi noodles from India for lead content. Finding no unsafe lead levels, FDA released the noodles for sale in the US.”

The UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) had already said samples were found to have levels of lead within EU permissible levels and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) added there were no health risks with the product.

The Singapore Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) and the National Measurement Institute in Australia found noodles manufactured in India and imported to be safe.

Nestlé India removed products from shelves on the same day as the FSSAI issued a ban and recall but has repeated they are safe to eat.

The noodles were banned by the FSSAI for exceeding permitted lead levels and containing monosodium glutamate (MSG) not mentioned in the ingredient panel.

FSSAI reaction to Goa results

The Food Safety Department of Goa took five samples as instructed by the FSSAI.

“The reports of first test were received on 1 June. Observing that the Food Analyst of the said lab had wrongly taken the permissible limit of lead as 10 PPM for the ‘Tastemaker’ as against the actual maximum permissible level of 2.5 PPM and the results reported by the lab did not contain specific lead content found in the samples, the FSSAI had sought clarifications from the State Food Authority in this behalf,” ​said FSSAI.

Further testing found the lead level was within the permissible limit.

FSSAI said the test results of the Goa samples had no bearing on the order banning the noodles as samples tested there were not assumed to be unsafe when the recall order was passed.

Nestle India has been manufacturing Maggi noodles at factories in Village Mauliguem, Bicholim (Goa); Industrial Area, Nanjangud, Mysore; IEE, Pantnagar, SIDCUL, Rudrapur; Tahliwal, Haroli, Una (HP); Moga (Punjab) and one co­-packer facility at Birshibpur, Howrah (West Bengal).  

All Maggi noodles for exports to eight countries were manufactured only at the Bicholim (Goa) factory. Part of the local domestic supplies, including four of five samples tested, were also from product manufactured at the Bicholim (Goa) factory.

Nestlé India was given the all clear to export Maggi noodles by the Bombay High Court in June.

It exports to Canada, UK, Singapore and Kenya and to third parties in the US, Australia and New Zealand.

Nestlé India’s net sales fell 20.1% in the second quarter largely due to the scare.

The firm made a net loss of 644 million rupees (€9.2, $10m) in the three months ending 30 June.

Nestlé India said it has tested more than 2,700 product samples, including 1,100 at independent accredited labs in India and abroad. These tests represent more than 165 million or 16.5 Crore packets of noodles.

These tests found levels of lead within the food safety limits specified by the Indian authorities, it added. 

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