Archana Venkatraman

Popular Indian snack MAGGI Noodles has been banned in Delhi, Gujarat, J&K, Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand for its high lead content. But its maker Nestle India says Maagi is safe for consumption and promised the snack will be back in shops once the issue is clarified.

Maggi Noodles banned in India for high amounts of lead and MSG content
Maggi Noodles banned in India for high amounts of lead and MSG content

The ban and scare around the safety of instant noodles brand MAGGI came after tests revealed that some packets contained excess levels of lead.

Gujarat's Food and Drug Control Administration tested 27 Maggi packets picked randomly from different regions of the state and found that the levels of lead content was higher than the prescribed limit for consumption. Out of 27 packets, 14 packets had 2.8 PPM to 5 PPM (particle per million) of lead content, much higher than the prescribed limit of 2.5 PPM.

High amounts of lead are toxic to many organs and tissues including the heart, bones and nervous systems. Lead is known to interfere with the development of the nervous system and is particularly considered toxic to children, causing potentially permanent learning disorders.

The lab tests also found that Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) was also present in Maggi. Large doses of MSG can cause headaches and other feelings of discomfort and pregnant women and small children are urged to avoid MSG in food.

The high level of lead and MSG forced Gujarat to impose a one month ban on Maggi noodles in the state. Other Indian states including Tamil Nadu quickly followed Gujatar to ban the product.

But its maker Nestle India said that its own internal and external tests on 125gm Maggi noodles packets showed that the "“lead levels are well within the limits specified by food regulations and that Maggi noodles are safe to eat”.

Despite its own tests, the company withdrew sales of the product and existing stocks from retailers amid the current scare and bans across major states.

UK Indian grocery specialists continued to sell Maggi Noodles amid scare but later got an all-clear from food authorities

Indian grocery specialist iTadka selling Maggi noodles on Friday, June 5, 2015
Indian grocery specialist iTadka selling Maggi noodles on Friday, June 5, 2015

Despite the lead and MSG scare, when India News Bulletin contacted Indian grocery retailers in the UK including, it found that they were continuing to sell Maggi Noodles across all flavours and sizes:

India News Bulletin also saw stocks of Maggi instant noodles packets in Indian grocery shops on the high street in Southall, Wembley, Hounslow and Kingsbury.

Britain later investigated Maggi noodles stock  here for lead content after the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) received lab reports from India of Maggi samples. FSA was thought to be working with the European Commission to see if Maggi packets sold in UK stores have high levels of lead as found in those sold in India.

On July 1, the FSA authorities said they tested more than 900 packets of Nestle Maggi sold in the UK and said that the lead content was within the limits allowed in the EU. Among all the Maggi noodles flavours available in the UK, only the masala (vegetarian) flavour is imported from India. But FSA tested all flavours available for UK Indian consumers and gave them all a green light.

"MAGGI Noodles are completely safe and have been trusted in India for over 30 years," Nestle India said in its official press statement.

"The trust of our consumers and the safety of our products is our first priority. Unfortunately, recent developments and unfounded concerns about the product have led to an environment of confusion for the consumer, to such an extent that we have decided to withdraw the product off the shelves, despite the product being safe,

"We promise that the trusted MAGGI Noodles will be back in the market as soon as the current situation is clarified," Nestle India said.

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