Maggi action: The latest monsoon in a chai cup

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Maggi action: The latest monsoon in a chai cup

Related tags Maggi noodles Food

Reactionary and radical moves by politicians and administrators who like to ride roughshod over common sense are unexceptional occurrences in India. 

Read Nestlé sued for $99m in government class action over Maggi noodles

What is sought more than anything in these cases is the rush for newspapers to publish screaming headlines about how a certain section of society has been given its comeuppance. 

The readership cheers, the politicians look smug and everyone feels vindicated—though maybe not the subject of the bombardment, who is left sat in the cold, eating piles of humble pakora. 

The country then moves on, likely towards the next reactionary outburst. In the scheme of things, it should all be little more than a monsoon in a chai cup.

The news today that the Narendra Modi-led Indian government has filed a Rs6.4bn (US$99m) lawsuit against Nestlé in the wake of the supposed Maggi scandal at first looked just like one of these episodes.

There is the obvious political motivation: a nationalist government flexing its muscles, making sure the local division of the world’s biggest food company knows who is boss. 

Perhaps Nestlé’s continued resistance to concur with the Indian food regulator, the FSSAI, that its Maggi noodles contained excessive amounts of lead, might have upset the Modi machine. You aren’t meant to disagree with NaMo.

Perhaps the FSSAI’s shoddy handling of the affair necessitated moves to reestablish the regulator’s authority. Let’s not forget, after all, that it wasn’t the FSSAI’s testing that first led to the affair; rather it was a local food safety unit in Uttar Pradesh that published the initial finding, subsequently followed by other states. 

Quite rightly questions have been asked why the apex food safety authority, with all its resources and clout, wasn’t at the forefront of investigations. 

The FSSAI has been viewed as a regulator in disarray this year. Short-staffing, unilateral pronouncements and the ad-hoc issuance of endless guideline have forced thousands of tonnes of imports to spoil at quaysides. 

The regulator wasn’t even able to find a chairman between January and the end of July even though it had plenty of warning of when the previous incumbent would leave his office.

Just yesterday, we reported on how the food industry is fearing a return of the days of the “inspector raj”​ as a result of the FSSAI’s approach to regulation.

Taking Nestlé to court for so-called compensation for Indians who have eaten its supposedly dangerous noodles is an effective way to show this lame regulatory duck has teeth.

Yet, to complicate matters, Indian laboratories in Goa and Mysore recently cleared the noodles, but these findings were dismissed high-handedly by the FSSAI, saying there had been lapses in the tests.

The legal action has thrown up a number of questions that need answering. Having made the claim on behalf of consumers, how does the government, should it win the action, plan to compensate the millions of Indians who have eaten the noodles in question?

From a corporate point of view, how will the companies India is beseeching to invest in the food processing sector and beyond through increased foreign direct investment react to the state’s sudden appetite for litigation? So far, India has been doing a dreadful job in attracting foreign firms to its soil and then keeping them there.

And in a country where food standards regulations are often ignored with tragic consequences, will the authorities continue to pursue local corporate transgressors through the already overworked court system? This is unlikely.

In the wake of this ridiculous action, even Bollywood celebrities have found themselves drawn in, with some of the biggest names of screen reportedly being the subject of a complaint filed by a court in the state of Bihar for having endorsed Maggi—some of them in the distant past.

Reading the news about me being sued for doing the Maggie [sic] commercial over 12 years ago ? 12 years ago ? How does that happen ?​” tweeted Preity Zinta.

Beyond our initial reaction of incredulity at the news, we now fear that the authorities might actually be forced to follow through. 

The news has spread across the world—to countries like the US, whose Food and Drug Administration (FDA) this week gave Maggi noodles the green light after its own testing. 

Accordingly, the world expects a transparent process and the courts—one branch of state that is largely impervious to corruption and reactionary pronouncements—are now in the spotlight.

The Bombay high court verdict on the case is expected soon. It has reserved its order, but has suggested that samples of Maggi noodles be re-tested. Nestlé has agreed to this, but the FSSAI has responded negatively.

Hopefully for Nestlé and the wider industry, the courts will see sense, as they so often do. India should not have taken such a half-baked action just to show a foreign multinational who is the boss—and done so with such a paucity of evidence on its side.

With any luck the authorities will also see sense, Nestlé will eat its humble pakoras and the affair will end with those on high feeling mighty ahead of the next reactionary outcry.

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Posted by Ajoy Daspurkayastha,

Business school Professors/Experts/Subject matter Specialists both in India and abroad should find Indian Maggi-saga case study a great opportunity to do a thorough research on “Happy meal conceptualized by Mahatma Gandhi----the father of the nation, India----which is very much valid in today’s context and side by side they will also have to do a thorough research on Michael Pollan’s “Unhappy meals---what it is all about”
Business school Professors/Experts/Subject matter Specialists both in India and abroad should throw deeper light on food security ,Mass food production in the entire food chain from farm to fork pinpointing the possible food safety lapses resulting into uncontrollable health-care cost burden on the head of the Government while interlinking country’s projected unhealthy workforce(manual as well as intellectual)over the years slowing India’s economic growth.
Business School in india or, elsewhere other than india,will have to research the Gandhian philosophy of child health empowerment through his safe and healthy foods and also will have to rediscovers Maggi-consumers of India through the eyes of Gandhi.
Herebelow, I am jotting down some of Mahatma Gandhi's sayings about "Food and health "
Mahatma Gandhi on self-realization
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Mahatma Gandhi on agriculture “Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s need, but not every man’s greed”
Mahatma Gandhi on “Food Security”
“We may utilize the gifts of Nature just as we choose but in her books, the debts are always equal to Credits”
Mahatma Gandhi on living “We should eat to live and work”
Mahatma Gandhi’s thought on food “Food as medicine ---not medicine as food”
Mahatma Gandhi’s thought on Food Safety “Child is the father/mother of the nation.”
Mahatma Gandhi on Consumer “A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. He is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption of our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider of our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favour by serving him. He is doing us favour by giving us the opportunity to do so.”
Mahatma Gandhi on hunger “There are people in the world so hungry, that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread.”
Mahatma Gandhi on purity of food “Purity of soul equates with purity of food, and he wrote this in India’s Case for Swaraj, in 1932”
Mahatma Gandhi on speed of life “There is more to life than simply increasing its speed.”
Some of the above thoughts you will find ---got reflected in QUOTE---Unhappy meals--- published by By MICHAEL POLLAN
Published: January 28, 2007, New York Times ------UNQUOTE
Reference: ---

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Posted by Ajoy Daspurkayastha,

Interestingly the whole NESTLE- MAGGI 's lead content over-limit episode (alarmed by Barabanki's Food Inspection Unit and acted by FSSAI,New Delhi ) looks like a parody of 1992's CADBURY's nickel-contamination in Chocolate episode ( Alarmed by Dr. D.K.Saxena of Indian Toxicological Research Institute, Lucknow and attracted media attention so much that the then then Cadbury Chocolate sales dropped drastically) . Same thing happened; Cadbury, UK said it is safe when they tested it whereas ITRC’s Dr. D.K.Saxena and his food toxicological research team disagreed and found otherwise. And India Food health and safety related all authorities backed Dr. Saxena’s observations.

Between the year 1992 and 2015 ----the Indian food safety journey related history through different food, medical, toxicological publications/journals citations, references, cross-references worldwide after a thorough due-deligence /search----definitely speak volumes in itself that India has positioned itself in an enviable position in the world stage in these period of 23 years not only among countries in the eastern hemisphere but also when comparably added to it with countries in the western hemisphere.

Dr. M.S. Swaminathan and Dr.M S Randhawa’s “Green-revolution leadership” and Dr. Kurien’s “White Revolution Leadership ”surpassing/crossing over half a century by now probably on its way to redefine “Food processing technology into sustainable food processing technology” through vivid food safety alarms determined not to make India ,a “Country of questionable food additives unlike countries in the west”.

In the globalized processed foods scenario such thing is not unusual and keeps on happening.
The metallic contamination in processed foods is such that it requires food forensic experts to investigate and such experts are the ones who can find the root cause of the problem. Interestingly you will find that when there is a cocoa crop failure in the African countries then the chocolate manufacturers opt for cocoa-butter substitute and it could be sal-fat from the forests of Odissa (Orissa) and nickel contamination can happen because of the ruggedness of procurement system. Or, declared as cocoa-fat but actually added “HVO(Hydrogenated Vegetable Fat (and this is the source od contamination).
Bhabha Atomic Research Centre's Food Technology Centre's one such investigative paper is referred in the weblink as http://www.researchgate.net/publication/222429820_Lead_cadmium_and_nickel_in_chocolates_and_candies_from_suburban_areas_of_Mumbai_India
Lead, cadmium and nickel in chocolates and candies from suburban areas of Mumbai, India (PDF Download Available). Available from: http://www.researchgate.net/publication/222429820_Lead_cadmium_and_nickel_in_chocolates_and_candies_from_suburban_areas_of_Mumbai_India [accessed Jul 2, 2015].
Author Sudhir and Rupali’s observations were QUOTE--Cocoa-based chocolates are found to have higher contents of the analysed heavy metals than milk-based chocolates, fruit flavour- or sugar-based candies ---UNQUOTE
Another thing ,I will like to point out here that in food research India has advanced like that of space research and Indian food research labs now possess ultra-modern food analytical equipments like any other advanced countries in the world and now in india,there are plently of well qualified food analysts including public analysts in every state ,if not in every districts for that matter of the fact.

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Posted by Ajoy Daspurkayastha,

About 3 months back a team of high-profile FDA,USA officials visited India and made the following bright remarks about India’s vision on food safety headed by FSSAI(Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) Food Industry, be it in india or, elsewhere in the world should look Food regulators in a positive attitude to help protect the public health and safety of the country's citizens in question which obviously includes protecting the health and safety of the sons and daughters, mothers and fathers and relatives of all the stakeholders of the food processing industries in india and abroad because food industry is no more only local, it is global too. Here below, I am trying to give you an idea how a food regulator(FDA,USA) has a feeling for a food regulator (FSSAI,India)which speak volumes in itself that in the present world, no food regulator can work in isolation. They need collaborative alliance to each other to upkeep food safety of utmost importance. And that is one of the main reason ,as to why every food regulator remain duty-bound to rise to the noble occasion of protective food safety in the global scenario of food processing industry where 5 ingredients can be sourced from 5 different continents and had to face 5 different (may look like apparently the same) food safety/quality checks in different challenging scenarios. Henceforth, food regulations never get an opportunity for dilution of food regulations just merely because food industry stakeholders on and off feels panicky about food regulations destined to upkeep the public health and safety of utmost importance as like that of India and USA whose national priority is “Food Safety”. Web-reference:-- Tile/Authors reference: --- In a country full of differences, common ground Posted on March 27, 2015 by FDA Voice By: Michael Taylor, Howard Samberg and Camille Brewer on FDA Voice’s TAG ARCHIVES: FOOD SAFETY AND STANDARDS AUTHORITY OF INDIA (FSSAI) Quote----Although we don’t know most of the 22 official languages spoken here, we nonetheless realized after meeting with FSSAI that we “speak the same language” in terms of our food safety challenges and solutions. ----Unquote Quote----But the Indians are no strangers to sweeping change to improve food safety---Unquote Quote---- Our counterparts, known as the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), are also undergoing a significant regulatory overhaul, known as the Foods Safety and Standards Act. Passed in 2006, it was the law that actually created FSSAI. At its core, the Act seeks to ensure that India’s food industry is adhering to international, science-based standards for food safety. Not unlike FSMA, this law poses many challenges in terms of how it can be successfully implemented, with both laws mandating comprehensive change, including marked increases in authority that require new resources to implement.--- Unquote Quote--- The sounds and sights of Delhi and D.C. are certainly different. But with our MOU signed, we look forward to building our partnership with India, recognizing that sometimes the most fruitful relationships result when people with diverse perspectives come together to find common ground.---Unquote About 3 months back a team of high-profile FDA,USA officials visited India and made the following bright remarks about India’s vision on food safety headed by FSSAI(Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) Web-reference:-- Tile/Authors reference: --- In a country full of differences, common ground Posted on March 27, 2015 by FDA Voice By: Michael Taylor, Howard Samberg and Camille Brewer on FDA Voice’s TAG ARCHIVES: FOOD SAFETY AND STANDARDS AUTHORITY OF INDIA (FSSAI) Quote----Although we don’t know most of the 22 official languages spoken here, we nonetheless realized after meeting with FSSAI that we “speak the same language” in terms of our food safety challenges and solutions. ----Unquote Quote----But the Indians are no strangers to sweeping change to improve food safety---Unquote

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