Scientists say it is unfair to call the noodles ‘unsafe’ even before the final test results are in; ask for findings of other labs and information on how the samples were blended and analysed
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Food scientists believe the raging controversy over Maggi noodles is unwarranted. According to them, it would be jumping the gun if one were to label the popular food product ‘unsafe’ even before the results of the final tests are in. They have also pointed out a number of grey areas in the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) investigators’ tests.
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Nestle claimed they do not add MSG to Maggi noodles and this is stated on the product as well. Pic/AFP
Maggi noodles have been at the centre of an ever-increasing storm after the Uttar Pradesh (UP) FDA officials initiated a recall in April of a batch of the product manufactured in February 2014 — which was tested the same month — after allegedly finding higher than permitted levels of monosodium glutamate (MSG), a taste enhancer, and lead.
Dr Uday Annapure, who is a former president of the Association of Food Scientists and Technologists of India’s Mumbai chapter, asserted that the FDA officials in UP should’ve alerted the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) immediately when they had seized the Maggi noodles packets and subsequently found discrepancies in the laboratory reports. He added that this promptness could’ve helped collect samples from all over the country. The delay on part of the UP FDA meant such packets with discrepancies would’ve either expired or gone off shelves.
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“The delay of over one and a half year (February 2014 to May 2015) has left no samples for further testing, since the fresh samples of noodles may or may not give results to prove any discrepancies,” Dr Annapure told mid-day.
S Anoop, assistant director (enforcement), FSSAI, Delhi, confirmed that the UP FDA had not informed them about the issue. “We were not kept informed about the findings by FDA UP, either then (February 2014) nor now after the latest test reports have come. It is only after the media started reporting about the issue that FSSAI has sent directives to all the state FDAs to carry out inspection of the samples. Had we been informed early, we could have taken similar action then and could have got the stocks for testing then,” he told mid-day.
Asked if any explanation would be sought for this lapse, the officer replied in the affirmative, stating that the point would be raised in the national-level meetings, which are attended by state FDA commissioners.
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Dr Annapure believes other brands should also be subjected to the same scrutiny. “If the authorities (FDA/FSSAI) were serious enough and were actually concerned of public safety at large, noodle samples of all brands from across the country should have been taken and tested. This did not happen,” he said.
According to him, it is also important to find out the methodology used to ascertain the levels of heavy metals by the testing laboratory. “We do not have any scientific database available in India to determine the permissible limits of heavy metals in the raw materials used in food processing industries,” he said.
Maggi noodles fall under Nestlé’s prepared dishes and cooking aids category of products. According to the company’s annual report, in the year 2014, the conglomerate clocked gross sales of Rs 2,900 crore in this category.
No negative reports on Maggi: State
The state government has said there have been no negative reports about the 8-10 Maggi samples tested so far. Food and Civil Supplies Minister Girish Bapat said, “We’ll take necessary action against Nestlé if something is found amiss. The probe into alleged lapses of food safety standards has already been expanded to test Maggi noodles samples from across the country.”