India’s government recently filed a lawsuit against Nestlé for selling sub-standard Maggi noodles in the country and putting the lives of millions at risk. The noodles were banned a couple of months ago because health authorities found unexpected high levels of lead in the product.
Now the government seeks about $100 million in damages from the Swiss company’s Indian branch, Nestlé India. The food giant recently stated that it maintained the “highest standards” of quality and safety for all its products regardless of the country.
The complaint was filed with a semi-court called National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission and represents the first complaint against a foreign company doing business in the country.
An unnamed official recently said that the lawsuit is designed to “send a strong message” to all transnational companies that they cannot endanger their consumers’ health by selling “sub-standard products.”
India’s Consumer Affairs Ministry reported in the complaint that lead was not the only problem with Maggi instant noodles. The company lied to its customers that the product had no added monosodium glutamate (MSG), yet laboratory analyses showed the opposite.
In late April, the Indian version of the FDA found that Maggi noodles’ lead levels were seven times higher than recommended safe levels. The agency ordered the company to recall 200,000 batches of the product on the same month.
In June, several Indian states banned the product over health concerns. Lead is especially harmful for children, health officials said. Over the course of the same month, India’s government issued a general ban on nine types of the company’s noodles.
In the wake of that ban, the company had to dispose of the noodles and face losses of $50 million in the process. Nevertheless, a spokesperson of Nestlé India recently said that the company was “disappointed” with the lawsuit since its noodles were perfectly safe to consume under the limits specified by India’s laws.
Nestlé India currently owns 80 percent of the instant food market in the country. Its top-selling brands are Maggi soup and Maggi instant noodles. The noodles are a favorite product of singletons and students because they are ready in about two minutes, or at least that is what the package reads.
Indian regulators are now discussing tightening food safety and quality legislation. Lawmakers try to set in place reforms that would increase the standards and the quality of training among food safety analysts. One lawmaker even said that those analysts should be tested periodically, just like pilots are.
On Thursday, Bombay High Court overturned the ban on nine version of Maggi instant noodles banned by the Indian officials. The court ruled that laboratory tests showing high amounts of lead in the products were performed in unauthorized laboratories. Justices also ruled that the government didn’t follow “natural justice” principles because Nestle wasn’t granted a hearing. The new tests may take up to six months to complete but the company wasn’t allowed to put products back on shelves.
Image Source: Indian Express