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US FDA Watch On Indian Snacks
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The US food and drug regulator has in the past one year rejected more than 2,100 import batches of 'made in India' products across food, personal care and health supplement categories, including those made by leading companies such as Hindustan Unilever, Britannia, Nestle India, Haldiram, Heinz India and MTR Foods, according to a report in The Economic Times.
So why did the Indian snacks fail the US FDA tests?
The reasons vary from problems in packaging and labeling to alleged contamination. The US Food and Drug Administration website says Indian products have been found to contain high levels of pesticides, mold and the bacteria salmonella, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal. The report mentions that more than half of all snacks that were tested and then restricted from being sold in the US this year were from India, which also leads the number of snack rejects across the world.
While the Indian food regulator doesn't monitor exports, it has been rushing to test everything from soups to pastas to instant noodles sold domestically in the wake of the Nestlé findings.
Sales of Nestle's Maggi noodles were officially blocked across the country last Friday, after the Food Safety and Standards Authority said it found them "unsafe and hazardous for human consumption." The company has challenged the ban in court and said its own tests hadn't detected elevated levels of lead, as authorities alleged.
The Maggi food-scare has featured prominently on social media. #Maggiban, #Magginasoup, and #Maggi'sSideEffects have all been trending.
Nestle may have secured a clean chit for Maggi from the Singapore food regulator, but the US FDA, considered the world's strictest regulator, had refused import of the noodles earlier this year. The US FDA's website shows that in January this year, six import refusal reports were issued to Nestle India by it.
The WSJ report also mentions that most of the rejected food from India actually came from Nagpur-based Indian snacks giant Haldiram's. Among the rejected Haldiram's products were some sugar candies and salty Indian snack mixes. The FDA said on its website that it rejected the Haldiram's products because it found pesticides in them.
In one case, the FDA referred to a product from Gujarat as consisting "in whole or part of a filthy, putrid, or decomposed substance or be otherwise unfit for food."
A.K. Tyagi, a senior-vice president at Haldiram's, said its food "is 100% safe and complies with the law of the land."
Several companies argue that the bulk of products were shipped without their knowledge by third-party traders. Britannia, for instance, said it exports to the US only out of USFDA-registered factories in India and meets all product and labelling standards.
On its website, the FDA said the packaging of the product didn’t list all ingredients and failed provide consumers adequate nutrition information.