Maggi noodles ban imperils the livelihood of lakhs – Offstumped

Maggi noodles vendor in Ahmedabad

Offstumped“In a nation where there is no semblance of food safety in the unorganized food retail sector for the government and the media to go after a packaged foods corporate that holds itself to account through quality checks is reflective of an anti-enterprise mindset. … When the dust settles on this Maggi alarmism, it is the roadside vendor who sold Maggi, the street corner kirana store that stocked Maggi, and the entire supply chain of shopkeepers and distributors who will pay the economic price with their livelihoods for this collective folly of cynical politicians and opportunistic media houses.” – Offstumped

Maggi NoodlesHow many have reported falling sick after eating Maggi noodles?

How many complaints of ill-health attributed to eating Maggi noodles?

Questions to which there is no credible answers for in all of this frenzy over food safety and Maggi noodles we have forgotten if there was an imminent threat to public health or is this one of many routine quibbles over nutrition value of junk foods?

If the present controversy over Maggi has just made you aware that the two-minute noodles isn’t ‘the healthy food’ you thought it to be then perhaps you were more to blame than the Brand. Like any other fast food, packaged food or snack – the McDonald’s burger, KFC or Coca Cola – instant noodles was of course going to be of questionable nutritional value but what is with this HashTag alarmism and 24×7 news frenzy?

Did Maggi noodles suddenly turn unhealthy overnight ?

It all started 15 months ago in March 2014 in UP, when a district food officer collected samples of Maggi noodles from a retailer in Barabanki, which was then found to contain monosodium glutamate (MSG) and lead more than its permissible limit. On appeal from Nestle – Maggi’s parent company, the sample was sent to Central Food Laboratory, Kolkata in July 2014. After 10 months, in April 2015, the Kolkata test results confirmed the presence of MSG, as well as lead in high quantity. Why would it take a year to confirm the findings?

Since then Maggi is facing tests in various parts of the country – Delhi government banned Maggi [on June 3rd] for 15 days and has decided to initiate a case against Nestle; Karnataka, Haryana, Punjab, Tamil Nadu have ordered tests; Gujarat and Maharashtra are awaiting test results; West Bengal’s Food Department has called a high-level meeting.

What is MSG and if it is harmful at all

Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) is one of the most abundant naturally occurring amino acids found in tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, mushrooms and many other vegetables and fruits. It is a flavour enhancer, which is either added artificially or is found in other ingredients of the products. According to reports, MSG stimulates the nervous system and makes food appear tastier. It is widely used in ‘Indian Chinese’ food.

An NDTV report quoted Indian dietitians and nutritionists as saying that there was no scientific evidence to establish adverse health effects of MSG. Prominent nutritionist Hena Nafis said:

“Recent reports of MSG having adverse effects such as headache, flushing and excessive sweating – which are typically associated with Chinese Restaurant Syndrome (CRS) – have not been clinically established.”

US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers the addition of MSG to foods to be “generally recognized as safe”.

However, Maggi masalas were found to have monosodium glutamate without proper label declaration which is an offence under the category of misbranding. The Maggi packet says, “No added MSG”.

How harmful is lead

Lead, which was found to be more than its permissible limit, can cause can cause serious damages to internal organs including liver and intestine, said Vijay Bahadur, assistant commissioner (food safety), FSDA Uttar Pradesh.

Girish Shahane in his article ‘Maggi Controversy: Millions of Indians face danger of lead poisoning ‒ from Ayurveda’ calls the Maggi row scaremongering and another instance of bureaucratic over-reach, by highlighting that more than 20 per cent of our Ayurvedic medicines contain heavy metals including lead in amounts much more than what has been found in Maggi.

“Why go after trace quantities of lead in noodles when our air and water are poisonous, and noise levels orders of magnitude above the recommended maximum? How many food stalls, or even restaurants, in India would remain open if they had to adhere to prescribed hygiene standards? And how many have been shut down by the food safety chaps?”

Nestle Nestle in its defence

Nestle India claimed it has got samples tested in an external laboratory as well as in-house and that the product was found “safe to eat”.

Nestle is replying to people’s questions and concerns on its website. On the question of misbranding and presence of MSG, Nestle said:

“We do not add MSG to our Maggi noodles sold in India and this is stated on the concerned product. However, we use hydrolysed groundnut protein, onion powder and wheat flour to make Maggi noodles sold in India, which all contain glutamate. We believe that the authorities’ tests may have detected glutamate, which occurs naturally in many foods.”

On withdrawal of products which had lead more than permissible limit:

“We understand that consumers are concerned by reports that the authorities in India have found elevated levels of lead in a sample pack of Maggi masala noodles. The sample came from a batch that had an expiry date of November 2014 and is therefore no longer in the market.” 

That Kerala government still runs retail stores is the bigger outrage

Kerala State Civil Supplies Corporation, also known as Supplyco, has around 1400 outlets throughout the state. The government has decided to temporarily stop distribution of Maggi noodles from its retail outlets.

Today when everyone – from consumers to the private companies – is arguing for economic freedom and limited government, why is Kerala government still running retail stores? The leaky public distribution system is an example of government’s failure as a retailer. Government’s involvement in distribution and selling is wastage of government’s limited resources which should otherwise have been focused on better governance and creating conducive atmosphere for business.

Also, the state-run retail business decision on Maggi has been wrongly interpreted as a government ban. 20,000 bakeries in the state have also decided not to sell any brand of noodles until the government takes a decision on this matter.

Arvind Kejriwal eating Maggi noodles!It adds fuel to Kejriwal’s anti-industry rhetoric

Even when the test results on Maggi were still awaited in Delhi, the Kejriwal government had already decided to initiate a case against the Indian arm of Swiss multinational giant forgetting perhaps this famous visual now doing the rounds on Twitter:

This Maggi controversy gives fodder to Kejriwal’s hypocritical anti-industry stand, which was exposed in his krantikari interview to Aaj Tak. His style of populist politics forces him to pretend like someone who is against big industries.

Why drag in the brand ambassadors?

A Bihar court has ordered that a FIR be registered against Maggi brand ambassadors Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta and arrest them. While Bachchan said he no more endorses the brand, Dixit recently met Nestle officials in this regard and said the company has assured her about the quality of the product.

TOI quoted Anirban Das Blah, celebrity agent, who handles the work of big celebrities including Deepika Padukone, Farhan Akhtar, Shahid Kapoor and Ranbir Kapoor, as saying, “If such things happen, our contract states that the celeb is as much a victim as a consumer. Besides, we’re not investigating agencies. If celebs are being held for false promises, what about our politicians? The buck should stop with ministers and bureaucrats who give permission to sell such products.”

Times of India GroupMedia frenzy

Though creating awareness is the fundamentals of journalism, creating frenzy is overreach and uncalled for.

Why is Times Group going after Nestle? Is this a new business model to manufacture outrage to feed the news cycle? Times group, which makes money off brand ads, is now feeding public alarmism with it’s over the top outrage.

This government alarmism feeds into media frenzy, damaging a brand and an enterprise’s reputation.

What raises further doubts about the design of isolated targeting of Maggi is that so far there is not a single reported case of sickness due to consumption of Maggi. Nobody has been hospitalized or complained of damage to health on account of consumption of Maggi.

It is irresponsible to fuel a media frenzy against a food product in this manner implying an imminent threat to public health when none exists and none has been proven. This kind of irresponsible activism will have a devastating effect on the entire ecosystem that is financially dependent on Maggi.

It is high time we demolished this negative stereotype of a greedy enterprise when in fact an enterprise assumes financial risk, creates jobs not just within its four walls but across layers of society. This is not to absolve the ham-handed manner in which Nestle responded to this crisis of confidence in its flagship brand. But in a nation where there is no semblance of food safety in the unorganized food retail sector for the government and the media to go after a packaged foods corporate that holds itself to account through quality checks is reflective of an anti-enterprise mindset.

When the dust settles on this Maggi alarmism, it is the roadside vendor who sold Maggi, the street corner kirana store that stocked Maggi, and the entire supply chain of shopkeepers and distributors who will pay the economic price with their livelihoods for this collective folly of cynical politicians and opportunistic media houses. – Niticentral, 3 June 2015

A Maggi Noodles Auto-da-fe!


10 Responses

  1. Maggi noodles apparently is unsafe for Indians, but perfectly fine for Singaporeans and the British – Shelly Walia – Quartz – 2 July 2015

    In effect, Maggi noodles are unsuitable for Indians, but not other nationals.

    Made-in-India Maggi noodles are typically imported by Singapore, Canada, the US, the UK and Australia. Right now, only Australia hastemporarily suspended imports.

    Even as the ban on sale of Maggi in India continues, the UK on July 1 confirmed that the instant noodles were safe for consumption after testing 900 random samples. “The UK have all found that levels of lead in the product is well within EU permissible levels and would not be a concern to consumers,” the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said.

    “Nestle informed the FSA that the only variety of Maggi Noodles they import into the UK from India is the ‘masala flavour.’ The FSA has now tested this flavour and others from the Maggi noodles range, as a precaution,” the FSA added.

    On June 8, Singapore’s food safety authorities also deemed India-made Maggi to be safe.

    After conducting laboratory tests that covered “a wide range of hazards associated with food,” the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore said made-in-India Maggi was safe, and not a risk to consumers, according to the Straits Times.

    Notably, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has been notorious for its substandard food testing, given its lack of staff and scientific expertise. Here’s how Aroon Purie of India Today summarised the state of India’s food testing authority:

    … the five labs in Uttar Pradesh date back to the 1980s and have neither the technical wherewithal nor the manpower to tackle complicated food-testing cases. Two of them, including the one in Gorakhpur that first declared Maggi a violator, are running without a public analyst. About 430 posts of food inspectors in the state are lying vacant, and only 40 per cent of the total technical vacancies have been filled.

    The Bombay high court order is a relief of sorts for Nestle, which has been destroying millions of packets of Maggi, in the largest recall in the company’s over 100-year history

    Following an all-India recall of the popular noodle brand almost a month ago, Nestle India had decided to eliminate the existing Maggi stock by incinerating it in the furnaces of cement plants. In total, someRs320 crore worth of Maggi noodles were to be destroyed. On June 26, the company said it had already incinerated 30% of the noodles it was recalling. One of the main reasons behind the court order is to stem this ongoing destruction of Maggi packets.

    An email with a questionnaire sent by Quartz to Nestle India remained unanswered.


  2.  Children protest against Maggi in Kolkata on 4th June 2015

    Nestle and the Billa-Ranga syndrome – Rajeev Srinivasan – – 10 June 2015

    Just as Billa-Ranga had become symbols of everything that was wrong with the system many years ago, Nestle is now portrayed as the wickedest of the wicked. Every known food crime in India is now attributed to Nestle including deliberately increasing the level of lead in their noodles, as well as deliberately destroying the health of millions. That’s not only unfair, it’s downright idiotic, says Rajeev Srinivasan.

    Read more here

  3. i am surprised that the admin is so sympathetic towards Maggi. if there was a harmful content discovered, why not go after them? other food items are now also to be examined, especially junk food.
    those who sold Maggi as livelihood, surely can replace it with some other food. Ideally with something more healthy.

    as a child in Germany, i remember Maggi had some tiny toy included in the packet, so that children pester their parents to buy it… and i did. it was a clever, but not fair marketing tool…

    • The Admin is not specially sympathetic towards Maggi, but towards those who will suffer because of the Maggi ban.

      And because the whole business appears to be a sham, a put up job. It is about politics not public health or food safety.

      If Maggi has not followed the ingredient rules or labelling procedures, then certainly it must correct itself. But a sudden outright ban on the product appears a very dubious government action when most other packaged snack foods are in the same position as Maggi.

      And the countries Maggi exports to have either lifted the ban (Singapore) or not imposed one after checking out the product.

      South India and the whole of South Asia eat huge quantities of polished white rice which has no food value at all. It is just calories and stuffing. Maggi noodles probably has more nutritional value than the traditional rice and rasam the poor live on in Tamil Nadu.

      Tons of noddles are being fed into the furnaces of cement factories. This doesn’t seem right. It would have been better to feed the noodles to farm animals or make it into fertilizer. Burning food when there are people and animals who need food but can’t access it, is just plain wrong.

      The state governments cannot give citizens clean water to drink, clean air to breath, or a clean and safe environment to live in. But they can go after a high profile snack food company because it is so easy and politically profitable.

      Why is the editor being attacked for publishing the article instead of the article itself being properly critiqued?

      The article is right on target. It is incisive and very well researched. Too bad Maria Wirth didn’t write it.

  4. Recalled Maggi noodles to feed cement plants’ furnaces – Arnab Dutta – Hassangarh (Haryana) – June 16, 2015

    Nestle India said it would destroy Rs 320 crore worth of Maggi instant noodles, which the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) banned recently after it found the product contained lead and monosodium glutamate (MSG) beyond permissible limits.

    In a filing to stock exchanges on Monday, Nestle India said Maggi noodles worth Rs 210 crore were being withdrawn from the market and destroyed even as another Rs 110 crore worth of finished and related material stock remained at its factories and distribution centres.

    “These are broad estimates because it is impossible to calculate the final figure while the withdrawal is taking place,” said the company, adding: “There will be additional costs to take into account. For example, bringing back stock from the market, transporting the stock to destruction points, destruction costs, etc. The final figure will be confirmed at a later date.”

    About 27,420 tonnes of Maggi noodles, under recall process, will end up in furnaces of cement plants across the country – a mode that Nestle India has chosen to destroy the stock.

    The company has already tied up with five cement manufacturing units, where Maggi packets will be crushed and mixed, to be used as fuel to produce raw material for cement. At least 10,000 vehicles are being used to bring the recalled products to 38 warehouses from some 3.5 million outlets across the country. Apart from the time it would take to recall all available Maggi packets – some 400 million – the incineration process will take at least 40 days to complete given the five furnaces are run at their maximum capacity.

    Nestle has arranged 12 additional facilities to store the recalled noodles. Since 40 per cent of the noodles are already out from their packed curtain boxes, 1.4 million new boxes have been arranged.

    Till last Friday, Nestle India has managed to recall 11,500 tonnes of the product and destroy 169 tonnes by putting them in such furnaces.

    “The actual recall process of Maggi noodles from the market is an immensely complex process and a mammoth activity, the largest in the history of Nestle,” said Luca Fichera, executive vice-president (supply chain) at Nestle.

    While Nestle stopped supplying Maggi to its distributors and retailers immediately after it withdrew the product on June 5, according to Fichera, the “more complicated” part of the process is to bring back the products from its 50,000 channel partners and customers. Adding to its woes, India having a less organised distribution system, Nestle, like others, has less than half of the outlets under its direct control.

    While it supplies products to 1.5 million retailers, the rest are serviced by wholesalers, small distributors and, at times, big retailers – most of whom do not source Maggi noodles directly from Nestle or its distributors. “This makes the process even more complicated,” Fichera noted.

    ALSO READ: European Commission asks India for reports on Maggi

  5. As I understand, the details on the packet is at variance with what is within the packet. It is for the owners to ascertain that both tally. What are the rules for, if they are to be disregarded? If the materials (msg & pb) in excess are harmful, then, the only argument left open is whether instant killing is better than prolonged suffering!

  6. Nestle should have paid the bribe and got on with feeding the nation!

  7. Nestle to destroy noodles worth $50m – BBC – India – 16 June 2015

    Nestle says it will destroy more than $50m (£32m) worth of its hugely popular Maggi noodles, following a ban imposed by India’s food safety regulator.

    India’s food safety regulator says tests have found the instant noodles “unsafe and hazardous” and has accused Nestle of failing to comply with food safety laws.

    The company insists that the noodles are safe and is challenging the ban.

    Nestle has 80% of India’s instant noodles market.

    The company said in a statement that the value of withdrawn noodles include stocks taken off the shelves and stocks stored in factories and with distributors.

    “There will be additional costs to take into account, for example bringing stock from the market, transporting the stock to the destruction points, destruction cost etc. The final figure will have to be confirmed at a later date,” Nestle said.

    Earlier this month, Nestle began withdrawing the Maggi brand from stores, after regulators said they found higher-than-allowed levels of lead in some packets.

    The company is challenging the ban in the high court in the city of Mumbai and “raised issues of interpretation” of India’s food safety laws.

    Nestle’s global chief executive Paul Bulcke has asked to see the results of the laboratory tests and promised to return Maggi to store shelves soon.

    Several states have also been testing the noodles for the chemical monosodium glutamate, widely known as MSG.

    The instant noodles arrived in India in 1983 and can be found in corner shops across the country.

  8. Hi,

    This article is entirely misleading the core ideas of We have to start it somewhere, it started it on maggi. This is like saying ‘banning cigarette/alcohol imperils the livelihood of lakhs’. We all know that Cigarette Makers have never lost a dime in court. ‘playing with words’ doesn’t solve any problem. Admin supposed to be little careful on the content.

    • Hi Yourself,

      We think the article is right on target.

      Your comparison with cigarettes is false and misleading.

      The attack on Maggi is a concocted one and if you had read the article carefully you would see that clearly.

      When it takes a lab in Kolkata one year to decide whether there is too much lead in the masala powder, then we know something else is going on besides testing food ingredients.

      The whole tamasha doesn’t do anything good for Modi’s “Make in India” project. Maggi, after all, is also “Make in India” and has big exports too.

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