From pesticides to antibiotics: Brands and the stuff in their products

  • Harikrishnan Nair, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jun 08, 2015 11:32 IST

The jury is still out there, but this is a soup no one wants to have. On Wednesday, inspectors from Lucknow's Food Safety and Drug Administration reportedly concluded that India's favourite go-to snack, Maggi, contained lead and the taste enhancer, monosodium glutamate (MSG) beyond permissible limits.

Maggi's manufacturer, Nestle, refuted the charges and claimed MSG in Maggi is within permissible limits. To be fair to them, lead might not have been an intended ingredient, but one that probably came about during the cause of manufacturing its noodles.

Accusing brands of lowering their standards is not new. Many such accusations have proven to be false and at times, the brands have themselves withdrawn the product from the market.

Here is a look at some of the popular brands and their run-ins with controversies.

1. KFC

Just last year, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) found samples of KFC’s ‘Rizo Rice’ unsafe. The reason -- use of artificial colouring. The fast food chain denied the charges and soon after, the Central Food Technology Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore, cleared the product.

2. Coca Cola and Pepsi

In 2004, the BBC reported that farmers in Chhattisgarh used the famous cola brands as pesticides for their crops: By mixing it with water. A farmer even told the Guardian that pests in his farm died after the cocktail was sprayed on them.

Several scientists have, however, refuted the theory that the cola drinks had actual pesticide in them. Instead they say that the sugar in the drinks could be the reason. Ants would be attracted to the sugar and thereafter attack the pests. The companies on its part have refuted all allegations.

But a Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) study in 2003 found high levels of toxic pesticides and insecticides in soft drinks including Coca Cola and Pepsi. The centre further found that batches of soft drinks sold in US did not have any pesticide in them showing dual standards followed by the companies. Despite a joint parliamentary committee vindicating the study's findings, both companies denied all allegations.

3. McDonald’s

The company recently undertook a step towards phasing out the use of meat injected with antibiotics .

Although laudable, this isn’t the first time that the company had made the pledge – it had done so in 2003 too.

Meat injected with antibiotic meat is dangerous. A study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2002, found that humans acquired Cipro-resistant bacteria from eating pork that were treated with a drug called fluoroquinolone. Cipro is a drug used to treat bacterial infections. You can guess what will happen if bacterial infections suddenly become immune to its cure.

4. Subway

In 2014, a blogger pointed out that Subway sandwiches contained what’s called the “yoga mat chemical”.

The ingredient referred to here is azodicarbonamide (ADA). It is said to be used in blowing plastic and making yoga mats. The World Health Organization states that the chemical is harmful when inhaled. But it is a regular ingredient in bread making and is approved by the FDA.

The multinational food chain has since committed to phasing out ADA from its sandwiches and according to the company's public relations firm, have already removed the said ingredient from its products.

5. Cadbury

This time it is no chemical but a worm.

In 2006, the company was forced to award Rs 15,000 in compensation to a man who found worms and fungi in his bar of chocolate. The company was just recovering from the shock to its reputation just three years earlier when worms were found in many of its chocolate bars.

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