Even as Nestlé India withdrew its instant-noodle product Maggi from the market after pan-India concerns, more samples were lifted on Friday from its Una plant in Himachal Pradesh for further food-safety testing.
A high-level team from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), central food regulator, came over to collect new samples. After the earlier specimens gathered from the plant had failed safety tests, the Uttar Pradesh food regulator had filed a case at Barabhanki in UP against Nestlé's Nangal Kalan (also called Tahliwal) industrial area unit based at Haroli, 6 kilometres from Una. It had also filed a case against Delhi-based Nestle India; an Easy Day outlet in Barabanki and its Delhi-based parent firm; and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) managers. Tests had revealed higher than permitted levels of monosodium glutamate (MSG) and lead in Maggi samples.
"An FSSAI team visited the factory on Friday indeed," Nestlé's corporate affairs manager at Una plant Sanjay Singh Rawat has confirmed, adding: "I cannot say more except that inspection is on." The state health department sent medical officer Dr Udit Kumar, designated officer LD Thakur, and food safety officer Satish Thakur to Nestlé's Tahliwal unit on Thursday. "The team lifted samples of Maggi and checked the unit's record to verify the claim that the noodles have no added MSG or lead," said a government official, requesting anonymity.
"The record suggests that the unit isn't buying any MSG. If so, then the MSG and lead must be among the 12 raw material that include water," he said, adding, "Samples have been lifted of each raw material and moved to laboratories outside the state." These will go to SAS Nagar and Panchkula for analysis in multiple laboratories.
Built in 2012, the Una plant governs the supply of Maggi noodles in north India and produces about 1.26 lakh metric tonnes of instant noodles and chocolate wafers. Its annual turnover is about `550 crore and its 370 employees include 292 from Himachal Pradesh. After the company took Maggi off the shelves, it suspended production at Una.
"The state government will take further action based on analysis reports," said additional chief secretary Vineet Chaudhary, adding: "So far, it has not communicated anything to the plant managers in Una. On Thursday, in a four-page letter to the state government, the company had stood by the quality of its products made in Una, and it spokesperson Himanshu Manglik had declared these "safe for consumption".
Instant facts about unit
Built in: 2012
Where: Nangal Kalan (also called Tahliwal) industrial area unit, Haroli, 6 km from Una
Total production: 1.26 lakh metric tonnes
Products: Maggi noodles, chocolate wafers
Employees: 370 (291 from Himachal Pradesh)
Annual turnover: `550 cr (2014-15)
Maggi safe to eat: Nestlé
Shimla: Nestlé India stated here on Friday that it understood the consumer concern after reports that authorities in Uttar Pradesh had found elevated levels of lead in a sample pack of Maggi noodles. Company's spokesman Himanshu Manglik said: "We are cooperating with the authorities who are conducting further tests, and we'll await the results."
The company claims to have submitted Maggi noodles samples from almost 600 product batches to an external laboratory for independent analysis, and tested samples from almost 1,000 batches at own accredited laboratory. It said the samples represented about 12.5 crore packs. "All internal and external tests show that lead levels are well within the food regulation limits and Maggi is safe to eat. We are sharing these results with the authorities," Manglik said.
The spokesman said the company monitored all its raw material regularly for lead, and remained committed to working with farmers, suppliers, authorities and the food industry for improvement in raw material.