The Maggi Row Is Getting Longer: Nestlé’s Latest Petition Scrapped By Bombay High Court

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Nestlé had filed a petition in the Bombay High Court against an order passed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Maharashtra and an order issued by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) banning the sale, production and distribution of Maggi Noodles.

On 5th June, FSSAI asked Nestlé India to “Stop further production, processing, import, distribution and sale” of all nine variants of Maggi with immediate effect as they had been found unsafe for human consumption. The FSSAI has outlined three violations in the report: the presence of lead in excess; misleading labelling on the package that read ‘No added MSG’ (Monosodium Glutamate) and the release of a non-standardized product in the market, Maggi Oats Masala Noodles, without prior assessment and grant of product approval. 

While Nestlé India called this order arbitrary, they made it clear that the High court petition will not hamper the product recall. The company is seeking court intervention only because the FSSAI’s and FDA Maharashtra’s decision was not in line with the Food Safety & Standards Act of 2011.

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What Does Nestlé Claim In Its Petition?

However, Nestlé in its petition strongly contested the order saying that there is no question of a health risk or violation of law. The company disputed test results of the FSSAI , saying there are several results for the same product, making it a strong case for doubting the “credibility” of the test results. “One report finds Lead to be 17 ppm, being at so much variation with other reports for the same product, it needs to be isolated for assessment of health risk.” The company claimed that the sample tested by the food authority had passed its expiry date could not have the basis an order having “drastic effects”.

Pointing out that the Maggi tastemaker is not a homogenous product; Nestlé said it couldn’t have had any defined tolerance limits for lead. The company said all of the tastemaker’s ingredients are specified under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2011. Thus, the tastemaker cannot be classified in the residual category of ‘food not specified’, which has a tolerance of 2.5 ppm as majority of the ingredients used in the making have an individual tolerance limit of 2.5 ppm or more, and a large number of ingredients have a tolerance of 10 ppm.

Nestlé restated that it “does not add mono sodium glutamate” (MSG) to the instant noodles. The company claimed that it used hydrolyzed groundnut protein and a multitude of other herbs and spices that contain glutamate. Therefore, if tested, there is detection of glutamate, which naturally occurs in many ingredients included in Maggi. “In fact, the analyses conducted by the FSSAI, Delhi shows out of the 13 samples collected, only five were detected positive for MSG. This clearly implies that MSG is not added by the company and is a naturally occurring compound.” Nestle however, said that it will continue to withdraw Maggi noodles product from the market. “We shall proceed further as per orders that may be passed by the Hon’ble Bombay High Court,” said the company.

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The Court’s Verdict

On Friday however, the Bombay High Court refused to grant any relief to Nestlé India, staying an order banning Maggi. The HC observed that Nestlé was anyway in the process of recalling the instant noodle and its variants. India’s FSSAI can, however, initiate action on Nestlé after giving a 72-hour notice to the company, said the high court. 

The HC also issued notices to both central and state food authorities asking them to file their replies within two weeks.

Nestlé has been given 15 days to reply to a show-cause notice asking why approval for all these products should not be withdrawn.

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