Nestle India under scrutiny as NCRDC calls for fresh testing of 13 Maggi samples

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The Central govt initially sought to send 25 Maggi samples but Nestle rejected 12 as being unfit to qualify for testing

New Delhi: India’s apex consumer court on Thursday ordered 13 samples of Nestle’s Maggi instant noodles to be sent to a government-run research laboratory in Mysore to test for lead and monosodium glutamate levels.

The National Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission’s (NCDRC) order to send the samples to Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) in Mysore followed a hearing on Thursday involving the Central government and Nestle India.

The Central government initially sought to send 25 Maggi samples but Nestle rejected 12 as being unfit to qualify for testing.

Nestle India also argued that in its view no useful purpose would be served by indicating the level of monsodium glutamate as natural glutamate cannot be distinguished from added MSG.

Apart from these samples, the Centre also pressed for lab analysis of samples seized by the Food Safety Standards Association of India (FSSAI) that are currently stored at a godown at Lucknow.

However, Iqbal Chagla, senior advocate appearing on behalf of Nestle India, strongly opposed the request saying, “It cannot be done on the grounds that it was rejected by the Bombay high court earlier. The court has already directed for adequate samples to be sent for testing.”

Justices V.K Jain and B.C Gupta, who heard the case, put the request on hold saying they wanted details of those samples. The judges appointed a local commissioner to visit the godown in Lucknow and note down the batch numbers of the samples so that the court could consider sending them for testing.

The order also laid down a detailed procedure to be followed for testing in the Mysore lab.

“The 12 samples before us would be put in a clean box and sealed under the supervision of the Registrar with his signature. Representative of the parties can also put their signatures on the box which will be sent to the director of CFTRI through a special messenger who will deliver the same through an acknowledgment on delivery.

“The seal and signature may be duly compared with those on the forwarding letter and the stock would only be admitted for testing on being satisfied that there has been no tampering/damage.” the order said.

Additionally, the court ordered Nestle India to submit a list of the batch number of samples that have been already sent for testing as per a Bombay high court order of 13 August.

Nestle, which has been under the scanner, was granted a respite by the Bombay high court which revoked a nationwide ban imposed on it after the FSSAI reported finding high levels of lead and MSG in Maggi noodles packs on 5 June.

However, the Bombay high court demanded fresh testing to ensure the noodles are safe to eat before the popular snack is allowed to be reintroduced in the market.

NCDRC’s order on Thursday came in response to a Central government suit filed in public interest on 11 August, alleging unfair trade practices, false labelling and misleading advertisements by the Indian unit of Swiss packaged foods company Nestle SA.

The court granted Nestle India time till 26 October to file its reply and listed the matter to be heard next on 23 November.

Nestle India declined to comment on the matter.

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