India’s food minister orders safety checks on Maggi instant noodles after inspectors found dangerous levels of lead in the popular snack.
Delhi’s city government has imposed a 15-day ban on sales of the noodles and said it would launch a criminal case against the manufacturer, Nestle India, on allegations of food adulteration.
The Swiss-based food company has challenged the findings since the results of tests in Uttar Pradesh were revealed last week.
The noodles, which sell at roughly a dozen rupees ($0.20) per single-serving packet, are a popular snack in India and Maggi has long been market leader.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s national government has ordered an investigation into a product that accounts for 15-20 per cent of Nestle’s revenues in India.
Food and Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said. “We are not going to wait for all the reports to come. The reports that are coming out – whether they are right or wrong, that I do not know – but the issue is serious.”
The Food Safety and Drug Administration in Uttar Pradesh found lead content of 17.2 parts per million (ppm) in routine tests on Nestle instant noodles – seven times the legal limit.
But Nestle India said that it had conducted internal and external tests of 125 million Maggi packets which showed “lead levels are well within the limits specified by food regulations and that Maggi noodles are safe to eat”.
It added: “We regularly monitor all our raw material for lead, including testing by accredited laboratories, which have consistently shown levels in Maggi noodles to be within permissible limits.”
Future Group, one of India’s biggest retailers, has taken Maggi noodles off its shelves, but the product continues to be widely available at corner shops, food stands and cafes.