Nestle has withdrawn the Maggi instant noodles from stores in India. (Photo: Jasvinder Sehgal)

Nestle has withdrawn the Maggi instant noodles from stores in India. (Photo: Jasvinder Sehgal)

Maggi have been called "the third staple" alongside rice and lentils - and are one of the country's best known and valuable brands.

14 year old Manan Mendiratta favorite food is Maggie noodles.

“Everybody in my family loved them.  We always have them at home. I was surprised when they disappeared from the shops.”

The National Food Safety and Standards Authority of India said they tested 29 samples of his favorite food and found 15 had levels of lead beyond the safe limit.

They also are accusing the Nestle of misleadingly labeling of the noodles by saying that they had no additional monosodium glutamate or MSG.

J.P.Nadda the Indian Health minister released the findings in a press Conference.  

“We have given instructions that all nine products and variants of Maggi noodles should be recalled from the market. Nestle had also not followed the regulations of labeling while another of its variant, Maggi Oats Masala Noodles tastemaker, was in the market without prior approval of the government. It is also being recalled,” he said.

Consuming too much lead can damage a person's kidneys, bones, nervous system, and is particularly harmful for children.

Dr. Tushar Dashora works at the Soni Hospital in Jaipur.

“They effect the neuronal stability and makes our neurons to fire more. It causes twitching, muscle irritability and at times it is also found to alter the behavior of children and adults. If they keep the intake then they can damage their brains, bones and even kidneys,” he said.

Nestle says that the lead content of both the noodles and the seasoning combined should be measured.

Over the last decade tests by non-government monitors in India have found high levels of pesticides in bottled drinks, antibiotics in honey and heavy metals in agricultural products, but there have been few repercussions.

Toxicologist Rajeev Betne, was part of the team who found traces of pesticides in popular fizzy drinks like Coke Cola in 2006.  

He says western companies think they can get away with things in India that they can’t do back home.

“In India the Food standard itself is a new concept, it’s in the stage of development. The lethargy, the lower bar of the standards; if you take the lead standards in the food, we have a bit higher permissible level then in US and other European countries. The international companies take advantage and the other major important thing is that the public is not aware of most of these standards that what type of food they have to consume. You can also add corruption to it, the easy way for the companies to get away with the lacking standards. The repercussion on the companies is not great,” he said.

Nestle India earns around 240 million US dollars each year just from Maggi noodles sales in India.

Deepak Punjabi, a shop owner in Jaipur use to sell over 100 packets of Maggi noodles each day.

“The Maggi controversy has affected the sale of other Noodles of other company too. The consumers who use to buy Noodles of other companies are also reluctant to buy any kind of noodle. The sale has dropped to a great extent, ” he said.

Back at Manans house, Preeti Mendiratta his mother his happy that the noodles have been banned.

“I am strictly against these packed foods which are very dangerous for health. Fresh healthy foods like fruit and vegetables are so much better. But what to do; the children are crazy for them because of catchy TV advertisements and their favorite film stars branding them?” she asked.

As a result of the controversy a number of international and Indian food companies have started detailed more ingredients on packaging.


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