Govt Drags Nestlé To Consumer Court, May Seek Damages

08/06/2015 7:50 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

NEW DELHI — In more trouble for Nestle over the Maggi row, the government may seek damages from Nestle, dragging it to the consumer court for "unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements".

"On behalf of the Indian consumers, the Department of Consumer Affairs has now filed a petition in the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC). It is based on the order of FSSAI saying that Nestle indulged in unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements," a senior official said.

When asked if the government is claiming damages, the official said, "If NCDRC finds the firm was on the wrong side, it has the power to impose financial penalty."

"We have sought Additional Solicitor General's advice in this matter and he will appear on behalf of the government in NCDRC," which has semi-judicial powers.

The development comes amidst the Indian unit of the Swiss multinational withdrawing Maggi from the markets after several states banned the famous '2-minute' instant food brand as tests showed them containing taste enhancer MSG (Mono Sodium Glutamate) and lead in excess of the permissible limits.

Goa became the 11th state to impose a ban on its sale even as Centre indicated that more fast food products could be probed.

"Since Maggi has been already banned across the country, we have decided not to take a chance and ban it in Goa," Goa Chief Minister Laxmikant Parsekar told reporters in Mapusa town near Panaji.

Delhi, Maharashtra, Punjab, Assam, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat and Uttarakhand earlier banned Maggi noodles amid mounting food safety concerns and several laboratory tests reporting excessive lead in it.

Cracking down on Swiss giant Nestle, Central health watchdog FSSAI on Friday banned all variants of Maggi noodles terming them as "unsafe and hazardous" for human consumption.

In Delhi, Minister of State for AYUSH Shripad Naik when asked about the Maggi controversy said, "The lead that has been found in it, it is not good for the health. That is why it has been banned.

"There might be many other such products. It is not that one product was banned and its over. The Union Health Ministry and even the states are keeping an eye on places where such products are available," Naik said on the sidelines of an event..

A Nestle spokesman when asked about the Government move, said the company had not yet received any communication and cannot offer comments on the issue.

Last week, the government had filed a complaint on its own with the NCDRC, using a provision for the first time from the nearly three-decade-old Consumer Protection Act.

Describing the alleged lapses related to food safety standards in Maggi noodles as a "serious issue", Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan also said the NCDRC will investigate the matter and take appropriate action.

Meanwhile, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), a traders' body, urged Health Minister J P Nadda and Paswan to take action against brand ambassadors of Maggi under the FSSAI Act.

In a letter to the two ministers, it said Maggi brand ambassadors have violated Section 24 of the Food Safety & Standards Act (FSSAI) and therefore proceedings must also be initiated against them.

Section 24 provides for restrictions on Advertisement of any food which misleads or deceives or contravenes the provisions of FSSAI Act, Rules & Regulations made thereunder.

Actors Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta have been separately dragged to the court for promoting the 'two-minute' noodles brand.

FSSAI said it will also examine branded pasta and macaroni products.

"We will check all other instant noodles brands as well.

Why should we restrict to one brand? We are drawing samples of other noodles brand," said FSSAI CEO Yudhvir Singh Malik.

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