Haryana Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) department on Wednesday said that laboratory tests of samples of Nestle’s Maggi noodles along with tastemaker have revealed that added monosodium glutamate (MSG) was negative and lead content was found within the prescribed limits.
When asked how the lab tests were able to conclude that no additional MSG was added to the product as the company itself said that it was not possible to distinguish between naturally occurring glutamate and added glutamate in foods, S.Narayanan, mission director, National Health Mission said since the level of MSG in tested samples was not above the limits claimed by the company, they concluded that it did not have any added MSG.
Nestle claims that the level of monosodium glutamate (MSG) in Maggi noodles was around 0.2 grams per 100 grams, which is close to the average level of MSG measured in the same portion size of tomatoes or peas.
‘It’s about misleading labeling than anything else’
However, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the national food safety regulator had pointed out that Nestle was putting misleading labels on the package stating “no added MSG” to get undue commercial advantage by creating an erroneous impression in the minds of consumers regarding the character of the product. The showcause notice issued by FSSAI to Nestle India on June 5 clearly said that label of Maggi instant noodles specifically mentioned “no added MSG” whereas the product was found to be containing mono sodium glutamate (MSG).
“The company stated in its June 2 letter that its claim regarding “added MSG” is a correct position since the company has not added any MSG (E621). Nestle further said that it is a known fact that it is not possible to distinguish between naturally occurring glutamate and added glutamate in foods,” the showcause notice said.
The FSSAI’s notice to Nestle clarified that regulations prohibited any other information on the label other than what is otherwise provided for in the Food Safety and Standards Regulation (FSSR).
“It defies common understanding as to why the company has to make this assertion when it is not required to do so. The apparent reason for using such information on the label is driven by an undue commercial advantage to create an erroneous impression in the minds of consumers regarding the character of the product,” the national food safety regulator said.
Reproducing a response of the United States FDA with regards to presence of MSG in food, the FSSAI order said FDA required that foods containing added MSG list it in the ingredient panel on the packaging as monosodium glutamate.
However, MSG occurs naturally in ingredients such as hydrolized vegetable protein, autolyzed yeast, hydrolysed yeast, yeast extract, soya extracts, and protein isolate, as well as in tomatoes and cheeses. While FDA requires that these products be listed on the ingredient panel, the agency does not require the label to also specify that they naturally contain MSG. However, foods with any ingredient that naturally contains MSG cannot claim “no MSG” or “no added MSG” on their packaging. MSG also cannot be listed as spices and flavouring.”
Soon after being issued the FSSAI notice, Nestle announced to remove the specific mention of “no added MSG” from the label of Maggi product stating that as some ingredient like groundnut protein, onion powder and wheat flour contained glutamate naturally, this may have led to the confusion.
Lead content tested by PGI, Chandigarh
The Haryana FDA said they collected 134 samples of Maggi noodles along with tastemaker from all districts which were tested to check the presence of harmful chemical substances.
Narayanan said that while samples were sent to Haryana Food Safety lab in Sector 11 Chandigarh to test for various parameters, the samples were sent to the laboratory at Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Chandigarh checking the level of lead in noodles as there was no such facility or laboratory in Haryana to test lead content. He said that in test reports the quantity of lead was found within prescribed limits.
He said that if required the samples would again be sent for testing at any other laboratory.