Nestle India, manufacturer of Maggi noodles, told the Bombay High Court today that a certain batch of its instant food product may have contained lead beyond permissible limit but government's decision to impose a blanket ban was unfair and illegal.

If a particular batch was substandard, it could have been banned but stopping the entire production was not justified, argued Nestle's lawyer, senior advocate Iqbal Chhagla. "Without receiving any complaint, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has banned our product, due to which we lost goodwill, reputation and suffered huge losses running into crores of rupees," Chhagla said.

The court was hearing a petition filed by Nestle against FSSAI's June 5 order banning nine variants of Maggi and the Maharashtra government's order prohibiting the sale of Maggi. Of the 30,000 tonnes of Maggie distributed in the market, the company had destroyed 25,000 tonnes, Chhagla told the division bench headed by Justice V M Kanade.

The decision to ban Maggi was without application of mind, arbitrary and without any evidence, the lawyer said. "We have tested our product in 2700 laboratories in India and also abroad and the tests have indicated that the lead content was less than the permissible limit of 0.5 per cent," the Nestle's counsel said.

The laboratories where FSSAI tested Maggi were not accredited by National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL), he alleged. Moreover, some of the laboratories were not notified under FSSAI Act and accreditation of some others had not been renewed, he added.

"For the sake of argument, we are accepting that there could be lead content beyond permissible limit in a certain batch of Maggie, but for this the decision to ban the entire product was not correct," Chhagla argued.