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Momogate: Are momos to be banned? Here’s what Delhiites and restaurateurs think

After learning about BJP legislator Ramesh Arora’s campaign to ban momos, Delhiites are debating whether to avoid momos altogether or just eliminate ajinomoto, the chemical responsible for making the dish a health hazard.

more lifestyle Updated: Jun 23, 2017 14:41 IST
Abhinav Verma
Delhiites and restaurateurs give their opinion on banning momos for using ajinomoto.
Delhiites and restaurateurs give their opinion on banning momos for using ajinomoto.

‘If you don’t like it, then ban it’ — this is how our lawmakers roll. Lawyer and BJP legislator Ramesh Arora’s campaign to ban momos in Jammu and Kashmir has predictably got the Twitterati buzzing. For the past five months, Ramesh Arora has been actively campaigning to ban the popular dish, as it contains monosodium glutamate or ajinomoto, an ingredient considered responsible for causing cancer. While Arora has been after the humble momo — everyone’s favourite snack — for months, the news broke only on June 8 and the whole country got to know about it.

In a media interview, Arora said that momos contained ajinomoto, “a tastemaker that is added in these foods, which in turn makes them addictive”. As per the report, he also said that it had been researched and found that momos were more dangerous than alcohol and drugs. All this has been greeted by scepticism and scorn on social media, but Arora’s aversion to ajinomoto has a scientific basis.

Ajinomoto was declared unsafe by the World Health Organization in 2014. According to WHO, there are 26 countries that use ajinomoto. Out of those countries, only eight have banned it (and there is no information on which countries they are). However, according to the US Food and Drug Administration, monosodium glutamate is generally safe. India first woke up to the health controversy around ajinomoto when in 2014, Maggi noodles were banned for allegedly having monosodium glutamate and high levels of lead. The noodles were relaunched in November 2015 across India with the quality assurances in place.

Just as the nation mourned Maggi in the months that it was off the shelves, the threat of the axe falling on momos has brought wounded feelings out on social media. “Delhi will go to war, if there is a #momoban,” thundered @tanyashrivast11 on Twitter.

Here is what momo aficionados and restaurateurs in Delhi think about the Arora’s momo ban campaign.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater, says the restaurant trade

“In my opinion, it’s the ingredient that should be banned, and not the dish. Despite knowing that ajinomoto can be a health hazard, most chefs in various restaurants still use it.” Chef Amit Kunar, Bella Cucina

“The ban on momos is not the right way to keep the nation free of the side effects of ajinomoto. As rightly said by lawyer and BJP legislator Ramesh Arora, momos served on streets do carry the carcinogenic monosodium glutamate aka ajinomoto. It’s used in most Chinese and Japanese dishes as well. Ajinomoto, a Japanese brand, should be banned due to its harmful effects on one’s health.” Dinesh Arora, owner of Unplugged Courtyard

“Banning the dish because it contains the harmful ajinomoto is not the right solution. Banning ajinomoto would be the right action. Just not in momos, ajinomoto is widely used in roadside Chinese food. So, the question is, how do you get them to stop using it?”Ankit Aggarwal, managing director at Café Indian Delight

“Food is made with emotions and ingredients mixed together. When a person orders his food, he yearns for the taste and also the look and feel. When burgers and pizzas can be made healthy, why not momos? It’s important to know that it is the ingredient that is harmful, not the dish. We can still preserve the essence of the dish without the harmful ingredient. Healthy customers are healthy business for us.” Jasneet Sahni, owner of Lanterns Kitchen and Bar

We’ll continue to eat momos because we love them, say Delhiites

“I eat momos regularly. However, I’m also aware of ajinomoto. It induces a craving to eat. But unless there’s a clear-cut health advisory against them, I’ll continue to eat them. It’s obvious that you should ban the ingredient and not the dish.” Kartikeya Ramesh, digital professional

“I think the government should stay out of our bedrooms and our kitchens. MSG is said to be the 5th taste (after sweet, sour, salty and bitter), giving the food a unique flavour. And I want the option to slow-poison myself, because sadly, everything that tastes amazing is bad for our health.” Shashwat Gupta, financial consultant

“First of all, momos are delicious. I’ve recently become a fan. And while everything delicious may not be healthy, I don’t really think that as Delhiites, we really care much about that. Our street food is our opium. Although I do feel that if there’s an ingredient that’s a health hazard, it should be prohibited, poor momos should not be given the punishment.” Arnav Narain, advocate

The government needs to go beyond banning momos and noodles, say doctors

“First of all, there’s no conclusive proof that ajinomoto is harmful. Countries like Japan and China have been using it for years. So it’s fair to say that we are yet to determine the effects of ajinomoto. The use of ajinomoto is more in dishes like chow mein and [veg or chicken] Manchurian, so by that logic, you should ban the entire [range of] Chinese and Japanese cuisines. Such bans are ridiculous, to say the least.” Dr Mohsin Wali, general physician

“Rather than focusing on banning foods such as momos or Maggi, the government needs to ensure that our food regulatory bodies function properly, so that we have access to clean and hygienic food. Right now, from street stalls to five-star hotels, all serve mostly unhygienic food. As for ajinomoto, it’s harmful if consumed in large doses for a regular period. There is no research available that can guide us on exactly how much is too much.” Dr R.K. Singal, doctor of internal medicine

And here is all the Twitter reaction