FSSAI CEO on Nestle’s Maggi: If their product was safe, why did they destroy it?

Maggi samples given clean chits were from factory that manufactures largely for exports, says FSSAI.

Nestle Maggi noodles
The apex consumer commission had on December 10 sent 16 more samples of Maggi noodles for testing at Chennai to ascertain the quantity of lead and monosodium glutamate (MSG) in them, in connection with the government's Rs 640 crore suit against the company for alleged unfair trade practices. (PTI)

The Bombay High Court’s order in favour of Nestle’s Maggi noodles, and the clean chit by countries including the US, the UK, Australia, Singapore and New Zealand notwithstanding, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has maintained that the ban on the product was done after thorough tests and “these clean chits have been given to samples primarily drawn from Nestle’s Bicholim factory in Goa, which manufactures the noodles largely for exports”.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Yudhvir Singh Malik, CEO, FSSAI, said, “There are eight facilities of Nestle and all the samples which went for CFTIR Mysore were from Bicholim, Goa, which are meant for exports. The US, Australia and New Zealand may have given clean chits but the samples were all drawn from the export facility. We have already requested the UKFDA, which has called India’s Maggi safe, to share with us the details such as when and where the samples were drawn from, the batch of the samples, what factors were considered, what testing protocol was followed and the test results. However, despite three reminders they have not replied.”

It is to be noted that earlier the FSSAI had rubbished all-clear reports from two of its own empanelled labs, saying there were lapses in the tests. It had rejected the findings of the Food and Drugs Laboratory of Goa as well as the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore, over test discrepancies.

“We asked Nestle that since they are claiming to have got clean chit from the UKFDA, do they have the reports for the same and asked them to share it with us. However, they have gone on record claiming that they don’t have it. How can they not have it? If their product was safe why did they destroy it? We ordered only recall of the product and offered that if the product was safe for consumption they should export it. However they destroyed it,” Malik said while emphasising that the FSSAI is focussing on its prime responsibility of ensuring safe food to people. According to an official, the FSSAI had ordered recall of Maggi noodles on June 5 after testing 78 samples of Maggi from Delhi, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat and other states, of which 30 samples were found carrying excess lead.

The official said that the sample was fairly large to take action on. Following the order, Nestle India had moved Bombay High Court. Last week the court set aside the order though it asked the company to get its noodle samples tested at three FSSAI accredited labs — Hyderabad, Mohali and Jaipur — to check lead contents.Explaining the ban on the product, Malik said that while FSSAI regulations don’t prescribe that MSG is unsafe, it explicitly mentions that it should not be in products meant for children below 12 months old.

“They said that they have not added MSG in Maggi and it is naturally present. Even if it is naturally present, why did they write No MSG added? We are not getting into whether it is safe for consumption. We have just said that it was falsification under the FSSAI regulations. They could have said that it contains natural MSG,” he said.

With regards to lead, which is bad for health as it accumulates in the system, the CEO said, “It can even be transferred from the placenta to babies. It will never have an immediate impact but you will never be able to relate it to consumption of lead on account of Maggi… Once it is a section 22 food, we don’t test it and go 100 per cent by what the company writes.”

As far as tests are concerned, the FSSAI CEO emphasised that the tests were done on the basis of CODEX document which was attached to the application of Nestle and hence no objections can be raised by the company on the testing protocol followed.

“Approval is granted on the basis of the content of the application. Nestle told us that they were confused about the testing protocol followed by us. But we have done it according to the CODEX document which was attached to their application, which says that the cake and masala will be tested separately and that is what we did. Now they are questioning our test. It is their protocol that was agreed to and now they can’t go back on it,” Malik stressed.

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First published on: 17-08-2015 at 06:59 IST