NEW DELHI — India’s favourite snack is under scanner in other states after the Food Safety and Drug Administration (FDA) in Uttar Pradesh recently found high lead content in two dozen packets of Maggi, even as manufacturer Nestle India, which has been asked to recall about 200,000 packets of noodles, said it was safe for consumption.
The Hindustan Times reported that the Maharashtra state unit of the FDA is planning to conduct its own tests before “taking a drastic step such as recalling the product from the market”.
“We have collected samples of the product from different parts of the state such as Pune, Nagpur and Mumbai and have sent them to our laboratory for tests. The results will come in a couple of days, after which we will decide if there is a need to take action,” said Dr Harshdeep Kamble, state FDA commissioner, was quoted by the paper as saying.
Gujarat is also conducting independent tests to check if Maggi contains high lead content.
In a statement on Thursday, Nestle India, a subsidiary of Swiss-based Nestle SA, has said it did not agree with the UP government order asking it to recall a batch of Maggi, “and is filing the requisite representations with the authorities."
UP FDA officials said all the packets of instant noodles tested in the state-run laboratory were contaminated, reported Reuters.
Nestle India said the batch of about 200,000 packets of noodles it was being asked to recall were made in February last year and had already reached their "best-before" date last November, the Reuters report said.
It said it collects stock nearing best-before dates from distributors and retailers and was confident products from that batch were no longer on the market. Nestle India also said it had not received any other order to recall noodles currently being sold.
Uttar Pradesh Deputy Food Safety Commissioner Vijay Bahadur was quoted by IANS as saying that orders had been issued to Nestle to also "look into the quality" of other Maggi batches, following some samples reportedly testing positive for possessing higher-than-permissible levels of lead and monosodium glutamate.
"Quality and safety of our products are the top priorities for our company," Nestle said. The company also said: "People can be confident that Maggi noodle products are safe to eat."
The central food safety authority told IANS it has initiated precautionary steps.
"We have asked the UP government for reports regarding the tests (on Maggi noodles). Action will be taken according to what comes out," said Food Safety Authority of India Director Bimal Kumar Dubey. He, however, said no orders to the company had yet been issued from the authority.
On the issue of MSG, Nestle said while it does not add it to Maggi noodles sold in India, and stated that as much on the packaging, the use of hydolysed groundnut protein, onion powder and wheat flour to make the noodles all contain glutamate.
"We believe the authorities' tests may have detected glutamate, which occurs naturally in many foods," Nestle said, alluding that it may have been confused with MSG. On lead, it said, regular monitoring that was a part of stringent quality control consistently indicated adherence to permissible limits.
Reacting to the developments, the programme manager for food safety with the Centre for Science and Environment, Amit Khurana, said such tests should be a matter of routine for food safefy authorities. "We congratulate the Uttar Pradesh team for that."
Similarly, Consumer Unity and Trusts Society, a non-government organisation, said products like Maggi are consumed by a large number of people and any doubt over safety must be taken seriously. "The food regulatory authorities must be strengthened for this," spokesperson Udai Mehta told IANS. (With inputs from IANS, Reuters)