Maggi Noodles: First Food Recall in India

  • By: Staff Editor
  • Date: June 21, 2015
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Maggi Noodles: First Food Recall in India

Nestle India’s Maggi enjoyed leadership in the instant noodles category for decades till last week when it completely vanished from the market. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) ordered a total recall of all nine variants of the best-selling noodles brand. FSSAI has been in the process of streamlining its food recall regulations for nearly five years now. Nestlé’s food scandal couldn’t have come at a worse time as the agency hastened to finalize its regulations and directives to show Maggi the door within weeks after the scandal broke out.  Now the brand holds the ignoble honor of being the first ever food product to be recalled in India.

How Did it Started?

Uttar Pradesh state food regulators were the first to find lead content beyond permissible limits in a few samples of the product along with the presence of taste enhancer monosodium glutamate (MSG). Fuelled by these revelations, over the past two weeks, several state food regulators have conducted tests on Maggi’s range of instant noodles and its other food products.

What Do the Reports Say?

Laboratory results that have come in from various states seem to indicate the presence of high level of lead in the product, but the results are not entirely definitive. In one South Indian state, Karnataka, the initial test results showed that Maggi contains lead within the acceptable limits. While the lead content was beyond permissible limits in several other states across the country like UP, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, etc. Irrespective of the discrepancies in the results from initial testing in various states, the central food regulator FSSAI has imposed a complete ban on Maggi throughout the country.

Nestle also contested the testing methodology of Maggi. Nestle stated that testing should be done on the final product after combining the noodles and tastemaker, i.e. in the form in which it is consumed. But FSSAI rejected the contention of Nestle after referring to US regulations which stated that all components of the product should be tested separately and must meet the permissible limits.

FSSAI has reported three violations against Nestlé: besides lead content issues, Nestlé has violated labeling regulations by misleading consumers with “No MSG” labels on Maggi packets. The third violation is the release of Maggi’s new Oats Masala Noodles without prior risk assessment and product approval.

International Trouble for Nestle

The trouble for Swiss giant Nestlé is now mounting. Soon after India imposed its ban, other countries across the world, have started product investigations as well. Bahrain has temporarily banned the import of Nestlé’s Maggi from India. Meanwhile countries like Canada, U.S. and U.K. are analyzing the presence of lead in Maggi’s noodle variants imported by various firms in their respective countries.

Nestlé’s Legal Response to the Ban

Nestlé India has challenged the Maggi ban imposed by food safety regulators in the Bombay High Court. Nestle said that they have repeatedly conducted the test on numerous samples of noodles and persistently found that the samples complied with the limits set by FSSAI. Regarding MSG, Nestle said that they do not add MSG to their product, hence the label says, “No added MSG” but it is a naturally occurring glutamate that might come from hydrolyzed groundnut protein, onion powder and wheat flour. Further Nestle agreed that it will remove the label to avoid confusion.

In an overall response to the ban, Nestle has decided to take Maggi off the shelves for the time being but promises to bring it back soon.

Other Major Food Controversies in India

The controversy around Nestlé’s Maggi noodles has caused panic throughout the nation. But this is not the first time that food products in India have come under the scrutiny of food regulatory authorities. In 2003, there were disputes revolving around Coco-Cola and its global rival PepsiCo for having more pesticide content in their drinks than the recommended limit.

In the same year, Cadbury India also came under the scanner by the Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (FDA) when few instances of worms in its Dairy Milk chocolate were reported in Mumbai. Cadbury defended itself by stating that infestation was not possible at the time of production but could have occurred from poor storage at the retailer’s end.  Later in 2004, when Maharashtra FDA stated that it was due to improper packaging, Cadbury invested heavily to get imported machinery to ensure better packaging and hence re-gain consumer trust.

Core Principles behind Food Safety

Food processors are increasingly under scrutiny both from regulatory authorities and consumers regarding their production methods, quality practices and commitment to product safety. One of the cornerstones of a strong food safety management system is HACCP.

The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) system is a systematic approach to identify, assess and control of hazards in the food production process. HACCP is a seven step process that monitors the performance of food safety management systems.

 HACCP Principles

The seven principles of HACCP are:

  • Conduct a hazard analysis: The purpose of the hazard analysis is to develop a list of hazards which are likely to cause injury or illness if not effectively controlled.
  • Determine CCPs: A Critical Control Point (CCP) is a step at which control can be applied and is essential to prevent or eliminate a food safety hazard or reduce it to an acceptable level.
  • Establish critical limits: A critical limit is a maximum and/or minimum value to which a biological, chemical or physical parameter must be controlled at a CCP to prevent, eliminate or reduce to an acceptable level the occurrence of a food safety hazard.
  • Establish monitoring procedures: Monitoring is necessary to conduct a planned sequence of observations or measurements to assess whether a CCP is under control and to produce an accurate record for future use in verification.
  • Establish corrective actions: A corrective action is a procedure that should be followed when a deviation occurs.
  • Establish verification procedures: Verification is the application of methods, procedures, tests and other evaluations to ensure compliance with the HACCP plan.
  • Establish recordkeeping and documentation procedures: Various types of records are required to properly document the HACCP system. Efficient and accurate record keeping is an essential component of an organization’s HACCP plan.




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