Delhi bans Maggi: Other brands are just as unsafe, say experts

New Delhi: Even as Maggi continues to boil in a soup of its own making, the vital question consumers are asking is: Why does the Government of India allow food manufacturers to sell unsafe products to its citizens?

While, the Delhi government on Wednesday banned the sale of Maggi for 15 days after finding 'high lead content', India needs to look beyond Maggi and conduct a quality check on other brands of noodles and ready-to-eat products like potato chips, soups, etc.

 Delhi bans Maggi: Other brands are just as unsafe, say experts

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The most popular ready-to-eat noodles brand of India, the '2-Minutes' Maggi became a target of a raging controversy, after the Uttar Pradesh government's food safety department allegedly found high content of lead in the samples of Maggi collected by them a few days back.

Noted consumer activist and founder of the Healthy You Foundation, Bejon Misra told Firstpost, "Some years ago, MSG was found in the samples of Maggi in Jamshedpur, but the packets carried no advisory. A case was registered against the manufacturer. In our country no one is scared of law; cases are registered, offenders get bails and they move on. Had there been strict adherence to safety laws and regulatory authorities followed a strict quality check, such incidents wouldn't happen. Many ready-to-eat products use MSG. The regulatory authorities should check all other ready-to-eat products available in the market besides Maggi, on whether there's MSG or any other additives beyond the permissible limits."

Ashim, Sanyal, COO, Consumer Voice, said, "Why is it restricted to a single brand? The government should get other products checked and ensure that the companies must follow national standards laid down by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) and Food Safety Standards. However, it would be a challenge for the government to prove the contamination of lead and excess use of MSG, because the MNCs generally adhere to rigorous policies and testing protocols."

Besides the ethical aspect of the issue, the consumer activists are also not thoroughly convinced with the technical aspects of the tests.

"I'm skeptical about the issue. No one is talking about the technical aspect. The quality of the tests conducted is paramount. The central agency --Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) should have immediately got the testing of Maggi samples done by the NABL accredited labs and its verdict would have been final. Several testing laboratories at state-levels fail to conform to standards. The equipment used by these labs is often not upgraded and not properly calibrated. This leads to variation in results," Sanyal added.

Meanwhile a Nestle India source said, "We had meetings with the Delhi government and we've apprised them with the situation."

But, the Delhi government is apparently not happy with Nestle's explanation.

"We're not happy with Nestle's explanation. More samples have been collected across Delhi and have been sent for testing. Once we get the results, we'll take action as per rules," Delhi's Health Minister Satyendra Kumar Jain said in a press conference.

Even though Maggi continues to dominate the instant noodles market, the entry of multiple brands and the increasing aggression of existing brands have affected Maggi's market share. According to market research reports, Maggi's share across urban market slipped consistently since December 2009 on an all-India basis.

"Due to various players in the market, who too manufacture instant noodles, there has been a decline in Maggi's share in the urban market. As a result, Nestle has begun targeting Tier-III towns and rural India. We get to see new ads promoting Maggi in the rural sector with new strategy to enhance its sales," said Indrajit Deb, an ad and brand professional.

In midst of the growing controversy, the share of Nestle India Ltd has plunged 10%, causing serious concern for the MNC.

Updated Date: Jun 04, 2015 11:47:59 IST