Sandip Rana, a senior executive at the production unit of Nestle India at Moga in Punjab, is hurt more than sad when his friends and relatives ask, “Is there lead and MSG (monosodium glutamate) in Maggi?"
They are referring of course to the small spark that has turned into a national outcry – Maggi noodles contain excessive lead and MSG. The conflagration has since spread to consume other packaged food items, with more getting added by the day.
Satish Srinivasan, factory manager at Moga, who saw surprise, anger, humiliation and frustration among the 1,140 employees when the reports first broke said: “An employee who has spent more than 12 years here said, ‘We do not add MSG, and tests have shown negative results, so how are these reports blaming us?’. I do not know.”
Nestle has an accredited in-house international proficiency testing programme in place in Moga that tests products for presence of heavy metals, including lead. “I have spent 32 years in Nestle and have been part of quality testing, including that of Maggi. It is disturbing and makes me very sad,’’ said Poh Sor Kuan, lab excellence manager at a Singapore unit of Nestle Quality Assurance Centre (NQAC).
It is not just permanent employees who have been affected. The 75 contract workers at Moga, for instance, have been reassigned by the contractor. “But there is a disturbance (in their lives),’’ Srinivasan said.
It has also impacted the suppliers of raw material, who have now started focusing more on exports. “About 200 workers were employed for Maggi-related activities, but I cannot sustain them now, since supplies have stopped,’’ said Paras Budhiraja, director of Paras Spices, supplier of spices used in Maggi ‘tastemakers’. This trader has taken a 40% hit to his business.
Nestle officials were unwilling to share information about impact on other suppliers, though they too must be in the same boat as Budhiraja.