Nestle pulls Maggi noodles after India safety scare
NEW DELHI, India – Nestle said Friday, June 5, it was withdrawing its Maggi instant noodles from sale in India after a scare over excess lead content that has seen the hugely popular snack burnt on the streets and temporarily banned in several states.
As it tried to contain the growing scandal, the world's top packaged food maker said although Maggi noodles were safe, it had decided to withdraw them because "unfounded concerns" had led to an "environment of confusion."
At least 6 states including India's capital have announced temporary bans on the sale of the instant noodles in the last few days, after officials said test results showed high lead levels.
Activists in the eastern city of Kolkata on Thursday burned packets of the noodles in protest, underscoring the scale of public anger.
"Unfortunately, recent developments and unfounded concerns about the product have led to an environment of confusion for the consumer," Nestle India said in a statement.
"We have decided to withdraw the product off the shelves, despite the product being safe."
Nestle has been selling its Maggi brand in India for three decades and has 80 percent of the country's instant noodle market.
The product – marketed as a quick and healthy snack – grew increasingly popular as more and more Indians moved away from their homes to study or seek work.
It emerged as one of India's 5 most trusted brands in a consumer survey conducted last year.
Several celebrities have endorsed Maggi over the years, including the Bollywood superstar Amitabh Bachchan.
'Junk sold as emotional nectar'
The scandal met with a mix of outrage and disappointment on Twitter, where it was one of India's top trending topics on Friday.
"A collusion of unscrupulous MNCs (multinational companies), ad agencies and food regulators leads to junk being sold as emotional nectar to Indians daily. #NestleIndia," tweeted the best-selling novelist Chetan Bhagat.
Others complained that the instant noodles were they only thing they knew how to cook.
"RIP (for now) #Maggi #NestleIndia hoping to be back in 2MINS," tweeted one fan under the handle @FivePointReview, referring to the time it takes to cook the dish.
The Future Group, India's biggest retailer, removed Maggi packet noodles from its more than 500 stores this week until results of tests being carried out nationwide were known.
The scare began when food inspectors in Uttar Pradesh said they had found high lead levels in two dozen Maggi noodle packets during routine testing, along with flavour enhancer MSG (monosodium glutamate) which is not listed in the ingredients.
The state last weekend filed a criminal complaint against Nestle India over the findings, while a separate petition was filed against Bollywood stars who have advertised the noodles.
Nestle has said it does not use MSG in its Maggi products sold in India.
The company, which markets a huge range of food items from Nescafe instant coffee to KitKat bars, said Maggi noodles would return to the market "as soon as the current situation is clarified".
Its global chief executive Paul Bulcke and the managing director of Nestle India, Etienne Benet, will speak at a media briefing later Friday. – Bhuvan Bagga, AFP/ Rappler.com