Saturday, May 30, 2015

Lead and MSG in Noodles-An unnecessary controversy with suspect intentions

Does any body remembers a three decades old case of frenzied response from the consumers when some one reported in Pune that the hugely popular mango beverage in Tetrapack going under the brand name Fruiti contained dangerous pathogens which later proved to be a hoax perpetrated by the competitors and industry haters. Later it transpired that pathogens were injected into the market samples through an injection needle to implicate the Parle Agro, the manufacturer of these beverages and bring disrepute to the brand image of the product. Now comes another earth shaking news from the state of Uttar Pradesh which is known to be a chaotic administrative territory with serious law and order problems that an international food company is poisoning Indian people (or more precisely the hapless consumers in that state) through "adding" lead and MSG to the noodles marketed in that state! No one knows yet where lies the truth in this sordid episode though common sense tells us that a giant company like Nestle would not stoop to this illogical level. Whether this is vendetta by a few bureaucrats or industrial sabotage or a genuine slip up on the factory floor by the personnel involved must be investigated for taking severe action if the reports are true. Here is a take on this "attention seeking" report.    

"The state's Food Safety and Drug Administration (FDA) said excess levels of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) were also found in tests on two dozen packets. Maggi, the two-minute instant noodles, are hugely popular in India. Nestle India has denied that their noodles are unsafe or unhealthy. The company, a subsidiary of Swiss-based Nestle SA, said it had strict safety and quality controls in place. "We do not add MSG to Maggi Noodles, and glutamate, if present, may come from naturally occurring sources. We are surprised with the content supposedly found in the sample as we monitor the lead content regularly as a part of the regulatory requirements," it said. But FDA officials in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh state, said all the packets they tested were contaminated. "Maggi instant noodles contained dangerous amounts of lead and MSG. We had to immediately issue orders against the company," news agency Reuters quoted DG Srivastava, deputy inspector general of the FDA in Lucknow, as saying. They said they found lead nearly seven times the permissible limit. MSG is commonly used as a flavour enhancer for Chinese food, canned vegetables, soups and meat but experts say too much of it can cause headaches, chest pain and nausea. Consumed over a long period of time, it can damage the nervous system."

The explanation that traces of MSG could be present because of protein hydroysis sounds technically logical and unless there is a fool proof method to estimate added glutamate as different from the artifacts generated during the process, down right condemnation of the manufacturer is not justified. As for presence of lead in these samples, it must be carefully investigated regarding its origin if really present in "dangerous quantities" as being claimed. India is notorious for shirking its responsibility as a nation to provide clean water to its citizens in any part of the country and if there is roaring market for the so called mineral water (most of them spurious any how), governments at the state and central levels, FSSAI, BSI must be thanked for! If Nestle really released some consignments of noodles containing lead levels higher than that permitted by law, they need to be hauled up for negligence and given commensurate punishment. Will government of India take action against hundreds of municipalities in the country who supply  the so called "protected" water day in and day out to the hapless citizens containing toxic minerals and disease causing pathogens with impunity? While this Blogger is not holding any brief for a corporate entity like Nestle, there must be a balanced response to any such events depending on the severity and seriousness of the lapse. 


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