Clearly The Maggi Row Wasn’t Enough
As the entire country stirs in the Nestle Maggi soup, the two heroes behind all the action seem to be cooking a broth of their own, fighting over the title of ‘The Man Behind The Maggi Controversy’. Petty as it might seem to us – what with our favorite snack being snatched away from us on one hand – the issue is a handful, the likes of which have not been unheard of before. Here’s what went down when it was time to take the credits for “check mating” the instant noodles.
“Uttar Pradesh Food Safety and Drug Administration (FSDA) officer VK Pandey was the man to expose Maggi’s unhealthy practise of adding monosodium glutamate (MSG) more than the permissible limit,” says a popular news daily.
“Who brought Maggi down? “I did,” said Sanjay Singh, a 1998 batch food inspector, on Friday, stirring a fresh controversy in the already boiling noodles row,” reads another newspaper.
So who really blew Nestle’s cover here?
Singh’s senior, Pandey, the designated officer at Barabanki’s food safety department, acknowledged Singh’s contribution to the investigation. But it didn’t come without a stipulation. “Every individual has been given a specific task in the administrative hierarchy. Sanjay collected the sample and sent it to the laboratory. However, it was I who took action after the reports mentioned presence of high level of chemicals in Maggi,” he said.
Not to be outdone, Singh said he had followed the case for more than a year. “Had the department not backed me in my investigation of adulteration in the popular brand, the world would not have known the truth about how multi-national food companies compromise with our health, especially children’s’.” According to Singh, he picked up Maggi samples from a Barabanki tehsil on March 10, 2014. “We sent them to a Gorakhpur lab for investigation. The tests showed presence of lead and high levels of monosodium glutamate.”
On being asked, why the official (whichever one) specifically chose Maggi, he said that Maggi was part of a group of food items that had been sent for a routinely test. Although, now that the matter is in the open, we have also sent samples of other brands like Yippie of ITC, Knorr of Hindustan Lever and Foodles of Smithkline to the labs.
The Real Issue At Hand
Singh said he wanted to be doubly sure before he took on such a major company. So, he collected the samples again and sent them for a separate test. The results of which have probably been etched into every Maggi lover’s heart by now – almost eight times higher than permissible presence of lead and taste enhancer MSG. “I notified Nestle about the irregularities. The firm challenged the tests and demanded a fresh test at the Central Food Laboratory in Kolkata. Even there, the results were the same and I stood correct,” stated Singh. In Kolkata’s state-run laboratory, they found a lead concentration of 17.2 parts per million (ppm), nearly eight times the permissible limit. The acceptable limit of lead ranges between 0.01 ppm and 2.5 ppm. The scientists also found high levels of added MSG, a taste enhancer, in the noodles.
Even though leading news channels and broadcasts boast of VK Pandey being the real “hero”, there are snippets that credit Sanjay Singh for taking up this issue at the grass root level. The officials are clearly going to have a row of their own real soon. But in the meantime, can’t we just eat our lead in peace?