Tests conducted in Kerala, West Bengal, UP and Delhi have reportedly found that Maggi noodles contain an undeclared taste enhancer called monosodium glutamate (MSG) and lead levels beyond the permissible limits. This is bound to worry parents since the branded noodles are popular among children. Its sales account for 30 per cent of the revenue of Nestle India. The negative reports, which are disputed by the manufacturer, have cost the company dearly. Its image has been tarnished and share price has plunged at the bourses.
This is not the first time the food regulators in India have been caught napping. Maggi noodles have been on sale for the past many years. It took a junior UP food official to get some samples tested and publicize the findings. The Central food regulator has asked states to test samples of Maggi noodles and submit reports to him. Shouldn’t the food tests be done by a reliable Central laboratory with a reputation for fairness, that too at the production facilities of the company? And should celebrities be hauled up for endorsing products whose quality they may not be aware of its quality? Film heroines may be in trouble if fairness creams they endorse turn out to be harmful. Should the publishers/broadcasters of advertisements selling defective products be also proceeded against? What about politicians who lie in their advertisements?
Food adulteration has to be checked through a foolproof process. There has to be a reasonable way of enforcing minimum acceptable standards for products consumed by people without introducing one more minatory inspector in the process. The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act itself allows certain amount of rodent droppings and hair in food items. Reason rather than emotion should guide action. Since Nestle is a multinational company, sentiment can easily be aroused against it in India, which had earlier seen cola companies being at the receiving end. Given the easy availability of adulterated and substandard products in Indian markets, ensuring quality and safety, particularly of food products and medicines, is a huge challenge.