Could it be true? Is the all-time favourite instant noodles - Maggi - finally back on the stands? The ongoing controversy on the ban of Nestle's Maggi noodles due to excessive content of lead seems to have finally come to a happy ending. Nestle India on Wednesday said Maggi noodles has cleared the tests ordered by the Bombay High Court at three accredited laboratories and that the effort will now be on to re-launch the "masala" version of Maggi noodles within this month.In June, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had ordered a pan-India ban on the company's noodles on the ground that these were "unsafe and hazardous" for human consumption due to presence of lead, allegedly beyond permissible limits. Post the Maggi ban, Nestle India faced what seems to be their worst crisis, when the company had to order a recall of the product, which cost it about 66 million Swiss francs ($67 million). However, they held on to their stand and fought consistently to prove that their product was safe for consumption, containing within permissible levels of lead. A few months back they claimed to have got samples of the noodles tested in an external laboratory as well as in-house and the product was found "safe to eat". They also remarked that they regularly monitor all their raw materials for lead. Now, all those efforts seem to have borne fruit.
"We have received the results from all the three NABL (National Accreditation Board for Testing Calibration Laboratories) mandated by the Bombay High Court to test newly-manufactured Maggi noodles samples," the company said in a regulatory filing with stock exchanges."All the samples of the Maggi noodles masala have been cleared with lead much below permissible limits," the statement said, adding this has validated their stand, maintained all along, that the noodles were and continue to be safe."We will make our best effort to commence the sale of Maggi noodles masala within this month, as well as continue engaging with the states where permissions are needed or specific directions may be necessary."What now remains to be resolved is the class action suit of Rs.640 crore filed by the government against Nestle India in the apex consumer court. The verdict on this is expected on November 23.In mid-October, Nestle India had said that all samples of Maggi noodles of the batches that were in question had passed the required tests as directed by the Bombay High Court, but added that it will be re-launched only after the newly-manufactured product also pass the tests. The newly-manufactured products underwent the tests at labs in Mohali, Jaipur and Hyderabad. As regards the other eight variants, a spokesperson for Nestle India said as and when the company decides to re-introduce them, the due process will be followed. He, however, did not indicate the time-frame within which these varieties will hit the market.The company said Maggi was currently being manufactured at Nanjangud in Karnataka, Moga in Punjab and Bicholim in Goa, and that it was engaging with the state governments of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand for commencing production at Tahliwal and Pantnagar, respectively.On August 13, the Bombay High Court gave a significant respite to the company by lifting the ban on the sale of the noodle, while also ordering fresh tests to be conducted in three separate labs to ascertain that the product complied with the country's food safety norms. The court order meant the original product safety certificate of the watchdog remained valid.Nestle also said it had, on its own, conducted over 3,500 tests representing around 200 million packs in both national as well as international accredited laboratories -- and that all of them had given the noodles a clean chit."In addition to these, various countries including the US, UK, Singapore, Australia and others have found Maggi noodles exported from India to be safe for consumption" the statement issued on Wednesday said.Once the noodles brand had passed the tests as ordered by the court in mid-October, a host of states that had imposed their own ban on the produce also revoked it, led by Karnataka, Goa and Gujarat. A related case now remains. This pertains to the class action suit filed by the consumer affairs ministry against Nestle India, seeking about Rs.640 crore in damages for alleged unfair trade practices, false labelling and misleading advertisements.The apex consumer court, which had also ordered fresh tests, is expected to deliver its verdict on this on November 23.Inputs from IANS
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