Nestle India on Thursday told the Supreme Court that it should not stay the Bombay High Court order that lifted ban on its nine variants of popular Maggi noodles, as sought by food regulator Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).
In its reply to FSSAI’s appeal against the HC’s August 13 order, Nestle has told the apex court that it has complied with the HC’s direction for re-testing of five samples of all its variants of fast food in three accredited laboratories, situated at Hyderabad, Mohali and Jaipur to check the lead content in the product. It also said that tests done on fresh Maggi samples provided to government approved labs were found safe.
Questioning the labs were tests were conducted by FSSAI before imposing ban on the noodles, Nestle said that “only reports from labs which are accredited by NABL; accredited to undertake testing of lead in cereal based products or spices or proprietary products; and notified by FSSAI under Section 43 of FSS Act could be relied upon. Since, in the present case, none of the labs were qualified to be food labs under the FSS Act, the reports from such labs cannot be relied upon.”
Further, the FSSAI’s contention that only imported food is to be tested by accredited labs “is incorrect and false”, it said.
Infact, section 47 (5) of the Act read with Regulation 2.1.1 of the Food Safety and Standards (Lab and sample analysis) Regulations 2011 provides that samples of any imported articles is to be sent for analysis to any lab authorised for this purpose by the FSSAI and from time to time having jurisdiction over the areas in which sample was taken. “For this purpose, four labs have been notified. Therefore, the contention that notification under Section 43 is only for analysis of imported food products is contrary to the FSS Act and the regulations. Moreover, the FSSAI conscious of this position of law directed the state authorities to test magi noodles in labs notified by it for testing of samples by food analysts,” Nestle told the Supreme Court. The matter is listed for hearing next week.
“The new food adulteration law mandates the laboratories are accredited by National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) and recognised by the regulator. However, until the accreditation process is completed the ministry had permitted the laboratories with old accreditation to continue testing. The HC now says that you cannot conduct any tests until the accreditation is complete. As a result all 72 laboratories do not have enough work,” Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for FSSAI, has told the top court earlier.
The apex court had last month stayed the proceedings in the Rs 640-crore class action suit filed by the government before the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), which had directed retesting of 16 samples of its popular Maggi instant noodles at the Export Inspection Council of India, Chennai, to check safety of its consumption.
However, the apex court without refusing to stay testing of the samples of Maggi noodles, ordered testing at Mysuru laboratory rather than Chennai in pursuance of the direction by the apex consumer court. It also directed that the test report, including the earlier one, be placed before it. The Commission had already ordered testing on October 15 on 13 samples of Maggi noodles from nine batches and the samples were sent to the Central Food Technological Research Institute in Mysuru, Karnataka, but till now the test results haven’t come.