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BW Businessworld

Nestle Noodles 'Unsafe', Violate Food Safety Laws: India

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India's food safety regulator said on Friday (05 June) that laboratory tests had found overwhelming evidence that Nestle India's instant noodle products are "unsafe and hazardous" for human consumption.
 
In a notice issued after a meeting with Nestle's global CEO Paul Bulcke on Thursday, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India also said it was evident that Nestle had failed to comply with its obligations under India's food safety laws.
 
While reserving the right to prosecute, the FSSAI issued a series of orders to Nestle, including withdrawing nine versions of its Maggi instant noodles and another product that was being sold without product approval.
 
Meanwhile, Nestle's global chief executive promised on Friday to win back the trust of Indian consumers and work with food safety authorities to get its popular Maggi noodles back on the country's shelves "as soon as possible".
 
But chief executive Paul Bulcke also called for greater clarity from India's own regulators, asking to see the results of laboratory tests that have prompted at least six states to ban Maggi noodles.

"We are a company that lives on the trust of consumers," Bulcke told reporters in New Delhi.

"I am confident that we are going to come back very soon."
 
Nestle announced earlier on Friday it would withdraw the noodles from sale, two weeks after a local regulator first reported excess lead in some packets.
 
The trust of our consumers and the safety of our products is our first priority," Nestle said in a statement.
 
"Unfortunately, recent developments and unfounded concerns about the product have led to an environment of confusion for the consumer, to such an extent that we have decided to withdraw the product off the shelves, despite the product being safe."
 
"We promise that the trusted Maggi Noodles will be back in the market as soon as the current situation is clarified," the company said.
 
Sales of Maggi noodles in India represent a tiny fraction of Nestle's company-wide revenue of almost 92 billion Swiss francs ($98.6 billion). But the importance of containing damage to the brand has not been lost on the Switzerland-based firm, whose group chief executive Paul Bulcke will speak later on Friday in New Delhi to seek to draw a line under the scare.
 
Maggi noodles, which sell at roughly a dozen rupees ($0.20) per single-serving packet, are a hugely popular snack in India, served to children and in roadside shacks across the country. Maggi has been a market leader for three decades.
 
"The action comes late, but according to me, it is the right thing for them to do. Any responsible company should do this," said consultant Harish Bijoor, who specialises in branding and business strategy. "The regulator is 'God' in this entire thing. The power is not with the company."
 
Despite poor public hygiene, India has not experienced growing reports of food scares on the kind of scale that has hit neighbouring China in recent years. But analysts say increasingly affluent, health-conscious consumers with access to social media are likely to mean more incidents are brought to public attention, and international brands need to be better prepared.
 
The noodle scare is India's biggest involving packaged foods since 2006, when a New Delhi environmental group raised questions over pesticide traces in Coca Cola Co and PepsiCo Inc fizzy drinks.
 
Food inspectors in Uttar Pradesh last month reported high lead content was found during routine tests on two dozen packets of instant noodles.
 
Nestle India had said earlier this week it had conducted internal and external tests of 125 million Maggi packets which showed "lead levels are well within the limits specified by food regulations and that Maggi noodles are safe to eat".
 
Bollywood actors Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta were slapped with notices by the Tamil Nadu consumer forum on a petition seeking a direction to them not to promote Maggi noodles on "false representations" about quality and safety. 


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