Freebies of an unexpected kind

Mumbai, July 1 | Updated: Jul 2 2005, 06:08am hrs
If you think that a packet of soup powder or a soft drink bottle contained just what is specified in the contents, you could be in for a surprise.

FE got some astonishing results when it procured a sealed pack of `Knorr Thick Mushroom Soup Powder' manufactured by Hindustan Lever Ltd (HLL) and a Duke's lemonade bottle made by Pepsico from a shopkeeper at Andheri in western Mumbai. The sealed pack of Knorr also contained a metal spring, while the Duke's bottle had a hair clip as well. Freebies Not quite!

In order to identify the reasons behind this, FE contacted HLL's Bangalore office to match the batch number mentioned on the pack. The batch numbers matched, clearly establishing that the product was genuine, and not a fake. FE also visited HLL's Kalwa-based plant which manufactures 12 variants of `Knorr' soup powders including the veg and non-veg category.

Said an HLL spokesman: "the plant operation follows Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point (HACCP) systems which identifies, evaluates and controls the hazards which are significant to food safety, and, prevention of metal contamination both before, and, during the process.

This year we have produced over 3.8 million pouches, and, had not received a single foreign matter complaint to date. With all the preventive measures established in the factory, we are surprised to find such foreign matter in the pack.

"However, we have reviewed our systems to ensure their effectiveness. The engineering maintenance records were checked for break down during the manufacturing of this batch. We have interviewed the concerned shift personnel to know of any abnormal situation during that shift. The QA systems followed by us ensure elimination of metal contamination into the production area," the HLL spokesman added.

PepsiCo India executive director (exports and external sales) Abhiram Sheth explained: "We have a fairly robust process for cleaning the bottles with the state-of-the-art washing systems. After that, every empty bottle passes through an inspection platform where each bottle is visually inspected by the operator. The bottles are filled, and, post-filling, again it goes for a visual inspection.

"Thus, normally, 99.9% bottles are picked up in the visual inspection. However, in rare cases, when any foreign object gets stuck at the base within the bottle, then it is difficult to detach the object from the bottle. This is what could have happened in the Duke's case.