South Asia radius

Regulator issues post-Maggi clarification on MSG stance

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

Related tags Food safety Food Glutamic acid Monosodium glutamate

The presence of monosodium glutamate from natural sources in noodles and pasta is not illegal under food safety legislation, India’s food regulator has announced in a bid to end confusion over the taste enhancer’s status.

With no established laboratory procedures to find out if MSG has been added artificially, the clarification by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India will be viewed as tacit approval for the salt.

While noodles and pasta are now exempt, the ruling does not apply to packaged food manufacturers. These can no longer use “No MSG​” or “No added MSG​” on labelling if their products contain the ingredient even when its presence is from natural sources.

According to the FSSAI’s notification: “Commissioners of Food Safety are advised that specific enforcement/prosecution may not be launched against the manufacturer of noodles/pasta on account of presence of MSG or glutamic acid unless it is ascertained by the department that monosodium glutamate enhancer (INS E-621) was deliberately added during the course of manufacture without required declaration on the label.​”

The move follows last year’s action by the FSSAI against Nestlé, when it banned the popular Maggi noodles for allegedly containing excess MSG. 

The regulator also accused the Swiss multinational for misleading consumers with a declaration that Maggi products did not contain any “added MSG​”.

It now acknowledges the Nestlé’s argument that MSG is found naturally “in several common foods such as milk, spices, wheat, vegetables etc​”.

To prevent both avoidable harassment/prosecution of food business operators, as well as to ensure that consumers are facilitated to exercise informed choices in respect of what they eat, proceedings may be launched against manufactures in case of mislabeling​,” the FSSAI added in its notification.

More stories from South Asia…

21st state implements digital national food security platform

Gujarat is the latest state to adopt the National Food Security Act, bringing to 21 the number of states that have implemented the policy.


"When I became minister, only 11 states had implemented the NFSA and that too they had not implemented totally​,” said Ram Vilas Paswan, minister of food and public distribution. 

Today we are happy to say that the number of states has increased from 11 to 21, including Gujarat, which will implement it by April 1, 2016​.”

With over 38m beneficiaries receiving 2.1m tonnes of subsidised grains, Gujarat’s implementation will centre on digital links to ration cards and the computerisation of entire supply chain, including point-of-sale devices across stores.

"Gujarat has done more than what is required in the Act in terms of computerisation of point of sale. Computers will say how many persons are there in a beneficiary's family, how much grains are required to be allocated​," Paswan said.

All states must now make provisions for the online allocation of food grains under the NFSA, he said.

Point-of-sale devices have been set up in 1 lakh out of 529,496 fair price shops across the country, and in 3 lakh it will be set up by 2017. We will cover all the shops by 2019​," he said.

WHO: Governments responsible for beating diabetes epidemic

The World Health Organisation has called on governments in South Asia to take vigorous and concerted action to “prevent, treat and beat​” diabetes, which has reached epidemic proportions and is expected to further increase in coming years.


Diabetes rarely makes headlines, and yet it will be the world’s seventh largest killer by 2030 unless intense and focused efforts are made by governments, communities and individuals​,” Dr Poonam Khetrapal Singh, regional director of the World Health Organisation’s Southeast Asia office ahead of World Health Day. 

World Health Day, which takes place on April 7, this year focuses on diabetes with calls to scale up efforts to prevent, care for and detect the disease in a bid to arrest the global epidemic which is hitting low- and middle-income countries hardest.

More than one out of every four of the 3.7m diabetes-related deaths globally occur in the region, while its prevalence exacerbates difficulties in the control of major infectious diseases such as tuberculosis​,” Dr Khetrapal Singh said. 

Almost half of the 96m people suffering the disease are unaware that they have it. If diabetes prevalence continues to rise, the personal, social and economic consequences will deepen​.”

Sedentary lifestyles coupled with sugary, salty and fatty diets rich in refined carbohydrates are driving the epidemic, which in the region affects primarily those in their productive prime.

Nearly 90% of all diabetes cases are of type-2 diabetes, largely the result of excess bodyweight and physical inactivity. It is both preventable and treatable if detected early. 

Dr Khetrapal Singh called on governments to regulate the marketing of food to children, and insist on accurate food labelling.

By taxing sugary beverages and re-investing the revenue in health promotion activities, they would be making an evidence-based intervention that would make for real change, she said. 

Governments must must also increase access to healthcare and promote educational campaigns regarding self-management and control, as well as making treatment less costly, she added.

World Health Day is celebrated each year on April 7 to mark the anniversary of the founding of WHO in 1948. Each year a theme is selected that highlights a priority area of public health.

IFAD launches ‘nutrition-sensitive’ aid project for eastern tribal regions

India’s government has taken a US$51.2m loan from the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development for a project designed to improve livelihoods and increase food and nutrition security for tribal groups in the east of the country.


The loan is part of a US$130m development programme that will set out to reduce poverty for over 62,000 rural households in the heavily forested Eastern Ghats and Northern Plateau regions.

The programme will be used to support improved access to land, natural resources, agricultural technologies, financial services and markets. It also aims to boost social infrastructure and essential social services. 

Given the extremely severe malnutrition found in targeted villages, it incorporates “nutrition-sensitive​” agricultural activities across all its programme components, according to Rasha Omar, IFAD’s programme manager.

Vulnerable tribal groups are the most disadvantaged in Odisha State​,” she said. “They fare poorly on all development indicators such as food and nutrition security, literacy and health. 

Given their high dependence on an ecologically complex natural resource base, they are also highly vulnerable to changing weather patterns​.”

Tribal populations living in the area have traditionally derived their livelihoods from shifting cultivation, rain-fed agriculture and from gathering non-timber forest products. 

Farming practices are basic, and mostly include growing rain-fed rice and millet. Many tribal people are landless.

Since 1979, IFAD has invested a total of over US$928m in 27 programmes and projects in India at an overall cost of US$2.6bn including co-financing. These projects have directly benefitting 4.4m households, the fund estimates.

Foodpanda to offer money-back guarantee on 45-minute deliveries

India’s biggest online food ordering platform, Foodpanda, has introduced a money-back guarantee that food will be delivered within 45 minutes. 


The service will launch in Delhi and then expand to Pune with around 900 vendors including Burger King, Wendy's, Biryani Blues, Eatsome, Subway on board. 

Over three months, Foodpanda plans to implement the service nationally through a partner base of 1,500-2,000 restaurants and chains.  

Saurabh Kochhar, chief executive of Foodpanda India, said the company uses proprietary technology to track delivery from vendors to customers. Its analytics system monitors issues that might cause delays.

We have streamlined our processes and introduced robust systems and matrix to ensure an efficient end-to-end service within a timeframe of 45 minutes,​” said Kochhar.

To increase efficiency, Foodpanda has also segregated cities into smaller clusters and deployed a fleet big enough to cater for its customer base, he added. 

Also: Foodpanda’s April Fools’ Day spoof

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