The Bombay high court on Friday provided no relief to Nestle India and said that its two-minute noodle brand, Maggi, should be off the shelves till the next hearing in the case.
The court was hearing a plea by the Indian arm of the Swiss multinational seeking a judicial review of the order by the food safety regulator, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), calling for the withdrawal of its top-selling nine variants of Maggi instant noodles on health issues.
A division bench of justice VM Kanade and justice BP Colabawala said the next hearing will be on June 30.
The HC also declined to stay order of food authorities banning nine variants of Maggi noodles and ordered FSSAI not to initiate further action and defer the proceeding for withdrawing product approval for Maggi.
The court has granted two weeks of time to the state, Centre and FSSAI to file a reply to Nestle's petition and its allegations of violation of principles of natural justice.
The FSSAI told the court despite being asked to withdraw, Maggi is still being found with retailers. Authorities also informed the HC they have independently tested 5 samples of Maggi and found that the lead content is more than the prescribed limit.
The court, however, questioned FSSAI over its prosecution of the brand ambassadors of Maggi.
Nestle had urged the court to quash the June 5 order of the food regulator asking the company to withdraw and recall its Maggi variants from the Indian market immediately as they were "hazardous to public health due to presence of lead more than permissible limits".- which the company complied with.
The order also directed Nestle to stop production, processing, import, distribution and sale of the "hazardous products" with immediate effect.
Similarly, the company has urged setting aside the order of the Commissioner of Food Safety, Maharashtra, banning the production and sale of Maggi products in the state since last Friday.
The company has contended that these orders fail to comply with the mandatory provisions of FSSAI Sec 34 which deals with emergency prohibition notices and orders, and that the orders were passed without any authority or following the due process of law.
Nestle further contended that these orders were illegal, arbitrary and violative of the principles of natural justice as well as the Indian constitution.
Nestle, in a filing with stock exchanges, had said earlier that it was also seeking a similar review of a June 6 order passed by the Food and Drug Administration of Maharashtra.
"At the same time, we are continuing the withdrawal of Maggi products. This action (moving the court) will not interfere with this (withdrawal) process. We shall proceed further as per the orders that may be passed by the Hon'ble Bombay high court," Nestle had said.
In technical terms, Nestle moved the court over issues pertaining to the interpretation of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2011.
Nestle had been ordered to withdraw Maggi by the food safety regulator after some samples were allegedly found to contain higher-than-permissible levels of lead - a premise that was rejected by the company, saying its own independent tests suggested otherwise.
Several states have also issued their own ban orders, even as the regulator widened its testing process to other brands of instant noodles and pasta with tastemaker.
(With agency inputs)