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Rs. 640-crore class action suit filed by the Indian government against Nestle

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New Delhi: The Rs. 640-crore class action suit filed by the Indian government against Nestle alleging unfair trade practices with regard to Maggi is scheduled to be heard by the apex consumer disputes forum on Friday, but the company expressed disappointment over the suit since the matter was sub judice.

Photo credit: www.civilsdaily.com
Photo credit: www.civilsdaily.com

According to the media officer in the Department of Consumer Affairs, Rs.284.55 crore has been sought for unfair trade practice of selling defective and hazardous goods, and Rs.355.40 crore as punitive damage from Nestle at the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC).

“The department has filed this class action suit on behalf of the large number of consumers of Maggi in the country against Nestle India on the grounds of unfair trade practices, sale of defective goods and sale of Maggi Oats Noodles to the public without product approval,” he said.

“The punitive damages have been claimed on account of gross negligence, apathy, and callousness on the part of the opponent company.”

While Nestle in its latest statement expressed disappointment over the government’s action.

“We are disappointed with the unprecedented step of filing of a complaint before the NCDRC against Nestle India. It appears that the complaint makes similar allegations which were made to ban the product on 5th June 2015.”

These issues are awaiting judgment by the Bombay High Court, the company added.

Nestle also said, “We confirm that we do not add Mono-sodium Glutamate (MSG) in the manufacture of Maggi noodles.”

The company further added that MSG is one of several forms of glutamic acid found in natural foods such as groundnuts/peanuts, wheat flour, tomatoes and cheese.

“As we use some of these ingredients in Maggi noodles, the product will contain natural glutamic acid. We therefore strongly reiterate that the ‘No Added MSG’ statement on the product was not an attempt to mislead consumers.”

In recent months, over 2,700 samples of Maggi noodles were tested by several accredited laboratories in India and abroad. Each one of these tests have shown lead to be far below the permissible limits, said Nestle, who have had their presence in the country for over 103 years.

The complaint, the department’s media officer said, has been filed under Section 12(1)(d) of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986. Under this clause, the central or the state government may file such suits in the interests of the consumers in general file.

In a class action suit, a single case is filed collectively by a group of people or on its behalf. The central or state governments can also become the complainants.

According to legal practitioners, this is a first of its kind class action suit filed by the government of India against a company, since the Consumer Protection Act of 1986 was enforced.

According to one of the law officers representing the government, who did not wish to be named, the complaint was filed on three grounds — unfair trade practice, release of products without sanction, and presence of harmful substances.

Reacting to the suit filed in the consumer court, senior counsel Vivek Tankha, who was additional solicitor general in the previous United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government, felt such action could have come after some matters were settled.

“I feel it is over-reaching too early. Even today we’re getting inconsistent reports from different laboratories in India and abroad,” Tankha told IANS, also referring to the matter being sub judice in the Bombay High Court.

“Government should have shown patience. It should not have rushed into ill-advised litigation at this stage. Compensation suits are filed on crystallized facts,” he said.

“In this case, the fact that Maggi is bad for health is in dispute, sub judice. The Bombay High Court still has to give the judgment. Whosoever is unsuccessful will file an appeal before the apex court.”

Nestle India has continued to maintain that quality and safety in manufacture of its products have been of paramount importance to the company.

(IANS)

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Three tests clear Maggi: Nestle India

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New Delhi: Three laboratories mandated by the Bombay High Court have found lead content in 90 samples of Maggi instant noodles much below the permissible limits, a company statement said on Tuesday.

“We have received the test results from all three laboratories mandated by the Bombay High Court to test Maggi noodles samples. All 90 samples, covering six variants, tested by these laboratories are clear, with the lead much below the permissible limits,” Nestle India said in the statement.

“In compliance with the high court orders, we will now commence manufacture and will begin selling only after the newly manufactured products are also cleared by the three designated laboratories,” it added.

The company is hopeful about reintroducing Maggi noodles in the market at the earliest.

It said it had got conducted over 3,500 tests on samples, representing over 200 million packs, in both nationally as well as internationally accredited laboratories and all reports are clear.

Nestle India also reiterated its resolve to collaborate with the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, the apex food regulator in the country, and other stakeholders on the matter.

After a five-month ban on the two-minute noodles for alleged high lead and Monosodium Glutamate levels, the Indian arm of the Swiss giant Nestle announced in November a pact with Snapdeal for the online sale of the instant noodles and its re-introduction in 100 cities in the country.(IANS)

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Supreme Court orders fresh testing of Maggi noodles

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New Delhi: Supreme Court of India on Wednesday ordered a fresh testing of 16 samples of Nestle’s Maggi noodles.

The apex court yesterday sent a notice to the Centre seeking their response on the plea of Nestle India Ltd against the NCDRC’s order of testing for 16 more samples.

The government filed a Rs 640-crore suit against the noodle company for the unfair trade. Last week NCDRC had asked for 16 more samples for further testing and Nestle went to the Supreme Court against the apex court’s order.

While, Supreme Court sent a notice to the government, it also ordered a fresh testing giving Nestle India another jolt.

Maggi after bans in many states returned a month ago to the Indian markets.

The fast and easy to make noodle product did not lose the popularity even after the ban and consumers were waiting for its return.

Previously, Nestle India on 9 November said it had begun the roll-out of Maggi noodles in 100 cities, terming the five-month ban as “one of the biggest crises” it had faced in the 32-year history of the brand in the country. It also announced a pact with Snapdeal for online sales.

The return of Maggi Noodles on the auspicious eve of Deepawali and on the day of Dhanteras is a moment of celebration for all of us,” Nestle India chairman and managing director Suresh Narayanan said, announcing the re-launch, after it was taken off the shelves on June 5.

“The crisis we went through is a big one for Nestle India. But we were always confident about the quality and safety of Maggi noodles. It is an important brand for the company,” Narayanan told a round-table with journalists to announce the re-launch.

“The first to hit the shelves will be the masala variant, which will be available in single, twin, four and six packs. Other variants will follow later,” he said.

“Maggi has special relationships and strong emotional bonds with consumers across the country and I am confident our bonds will grow stronger,” he said. “Separately, Nestle India is pleased to partner with Snapdeal to roll-out online offers to mark this special occasion.”

On June 5, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had ordered a pan India ban on the company’s noodles on the ground that these were “unsafe and hazardous” for humans due to the presence of lead, allegedly beyond permissible limits.

After a five-month legal battle, Nestle announced that the masala version of Maggi noodles will hit the retail shelves as early as this month having cleared all tests ordered by the Bombay High Court at three accredited laboratories. (IANS)

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Maggi returns: How safe is Maggi?

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New Delhi: Sometimes back, Nestle India seemed to have found a bonus in an earthquake. Following the devastating tremors that rocked Nepal, it faced a demand to supply as many as 200,000 packets of Maggi noodles as relief aid from India. But, situation somersaulted after the controversy that tests in Indian labs detected the presence of lead above the permissible limit in the tastemaker. Consequently, the sale of Maggi was banned.

However, it stormed back passing all the laboratory tests in November. However, are the chemicals that enhance the taste of Maggi safe?

Though Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) intensifies meaty and savory flavour in food. Japanese biochemist Kikunae Ikeda identified the unique flavour and coined it as ‘unani’, Japanese for the fifth taste besides sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Strangely, glutamic acid is one of the most abundant naturally occurring non-essential amino acids and can be traced in many vegetables and fruits including tomatoes, potatoes and mushrooms.

Ajinomoto is a Tokyo-based company which produces MSG besides seasonings, cooking oils, TV dinners, sweeteners and pharmaceuticals. It operates in 26 countries and has 27,500 plus manpower.

Reports of side effects attributed to MSG first mushroomed in 1968. Numbness in the back of the neck, arm, weakness and heart palpitations were listed among the major ailments caused by MSG.

Though the US enlisted MSG as generally recognized as safe (GRAS) category, but large doses of MSG can induce headaches and other feelings of discomfort collectively known as ‘Chinese Restaurant Syndrome”. Other common symptoms of MSG are- headache, flushing, severe sweating, facial pressure or tightness, numbness, tingling or burning sensation  in face, rapid fluttering, chest pain and nausea. Since, bulk of Maggi consumers are minors, the Indian government came down heavily on the snack and clamped the ban.

Lead, another toxic element traced in the tastemaker sachet in Maggi packets too has its satanic qualities. Lead poisoning undoubtedly is a serious and, sometimes, fatal condition. The highly toxic metal if accumulates in the human body can cause irreversible health hazards. Children are more prone to lead poisoning since their brain and nervous system are still developing.

The poisoning can cause severe mental and physical impairment. However, lead poisoning occurs over a period of months and years. Abdominal pain, abdominal cramps, aggressive behavior, constipation, sleep disorder, headache, loss of appetite, fatigue, kidney dysfunction, anemia, vomiting, seizure, encephalopathy are the notable symptoms if the human body gets exposed to lead. While low-level presence in adults is not harmful but similar levels in children is an unambiguous concern.

In general, acid foods and drinks leach lead out of dishes much faster than non-acid foods. Spaghetti sauce, salsa, soy sauce, orange juice, applesauce, coffee, tea, cola drinks, and salad dressing are examples of acid foods. The longer the food stays in contact with a dish surface that contains lead, the more lead will be leached into the food. Heating up food in a lead-containing dish can speed up the lead-leaching process. A combination of these factors will make the problem even worse. The sachet body of the tastemaker in Maggie reportedly showed traces of lead.

Maggi might be back, but the chemicals are still present, maybe at a prescribed limit. But is it worth it?