With consumers wary, Maggi noodles off store shelves

New Delhi: With consumers wary of Maggi noodles, the sale of this popular snack which has been a part of the Indian palette for over 25 years, has taken a hit with chains like Big Bazaar removing it from their shelves.

While Nestle continued to maintain that its product was 'safe' for consumption, reports of its samples testing positive for higher-than-permissible levels of some substances has created concern.

"It was a quick fix snack for my kids, especially when they were very hungry after school but now I cannot take their health for granted," Rameshwari Devi, a homemaker in Noida, told IANS.

The developments have also come as a rude shock to hosteller's for whom Maggi noodles were a go-to-food, especially at odd hours. "They were the easiest to cook - very affordable for us. We now have to search for alternatives if they aren't safe," said Varun Mithani, a hosteller and college student in Delhi University.

According to reports, states and union territories like Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Goa, Karnataka and Kerala have sent samples of Maggi noodles for testing.

This follows a recall order for a particular batch of the noodle brand by the Uttar Pradesh Food and Drugs Authority in April this year, after allegations that its samples were found to have higher-than-permissible levels of lead.

Amid such concerns, Nestle again sought to clear the air, saying they were officially unaware of any action by state governments, save the directive from Uttar Pradesh to withdraw the batch of February 2014 -- which had already passed the "best before" date.

"We have not received any official communication from the authorities so far," Nestle said in a statement on Wednesday, adding: "We are cooperating with the authorities who are conducting tests and awaiting their results."

Nonetheless, the concerns hit sales. Speaking to IANS, distributors and shopkeepers selling Maggi noodles in the National Capital Territory said sales have dipped over the past week.

"I used to supply 100,000 packets of Maggi noodles every day to shops in and around Noida. But we have completely stopped supplies since the past three days," B.K. Mishra, a distributor, said,

"For us, 80 percent of noodles sales were from Maggi alone. But now no one buys them. So, we are returning the stocks," added Akshay Kumar, who owns a grocery shop in the southern quarters of New Delhi.

Another shopkeeper Ram Prasad said just 10 packets were left at his store and that he would not stock Maggi until it was declared safe for consumption.

Even in areas around offices, where makeshift stalls make Maggi noodles and pasta, sales have taken a hit. "Customers don't take even two minutes to stop eating a product if they feel it is not good for health," said Suresh Sharma, a vendor, drawing from how Nestle has been advertising its popular brand: "Two Minute Noodles."

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