In boiling waters: Nestle freshly fined in Maggie row

Lucknow, November 29: A court on Tuesday imposed a fine of Rs. 45 lakh on Nestle India in a 2015 case for selling substandard instant Maggie noodles after a laboratory test found high ash content in its popular brand.

The court also slapped a Rs. 26 lakh fine on the distributors of Nestle India, a unit of packaged food giant Nestle SA, said Ranjan Singh, a legal officer at the Shahjahanpur district court in Uttar Pradesh (UP) on Wednesday.

The case against the Swiss food firm’s India unit is one of several filed by regulators after they found excess lead, ash, and monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavour enhancer, in different samples of Maggi noodles seized in Uttar Pradesh between 2015 and 2016.

A spokesman for Nestle India said the company will appeal against the order.

“This appears to be a case of application of incorrect standards, and we will file an appeal urgently once we receive the order,” said the spokesman, who did not wish to be named citing company policy.

The FMCG company, however, has claimed not to have received any such order yet. “While we have not received the orders passed by the adjudication officer, we have been informed that the samples are of the year 2015 and the issue pertains to ‘ash content’. This appears to be a case of application of incorrect standards, and we will file an appeal once we receive the order,” said a Nestle India spokesperson.

It would seem that UP is not too fond of instant noodles. The huge 2015 controversy over the excessive lead content in Maggi, which led to the product being banned by the FSSAI, started when a food inspector at the UP government’s Food Safety and Drug Administration decided to verify the brand’s “no added MSG” (monosodium glutamate) claim back in May 2014.

In February last year, the state’s food safety department found samples of Knorr and Ching’s to be “sub-standard” with ash content in the taste-maker exceeding the prescribed limits, and another team of Food Safety and Drugs Administration (FSDA) based in Meerut accused Patanjali Atta Noodles samples of the same thing two months later.

Maggi, Nestle India’s single-largest revenue earner, was banned in June 2015 for six months across India on allegations that it contained chemicals beyond prescribed limits.

The company had to recall 38,000 tonnes of Maggi noodles from millions of retail shelves and destroy them. The ban was relaxed in November 2015.

By Aishwarya Tendolkar with inputs from Agencies.