Maggi ban quashed, Bombay HC orders fresh testing of samples

Lifting the Maggi ban, the Bombay High Court on Thursday ordered that India’s food regulator had acted in an “arbitrary” fashion when it banned the nine variants of the popular noodle variety manufactured by food giant Nestle India. “Even though it’s 2-minute noodles, it took us a lot of time,” the bench remarked.

Justices VM Kanade and BP Colabawalla set aside the June 5 order of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI). The food regulator had asked Nestle India to withdraw all nine variants of Maggi instant noodles from the market terming them “unsafe and hazardous” for human consumption. “Principles of natural justice were not followed while passing the ban order,” observed the court. The HC has directed the FSSAI to test five samples of the product in three labs accredited by National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL).

The three labs are in Hyderabad, Mohali and Jaipur. The court said the samples should be analysed within six weeks and if tests prove that the Lead content in the product is within permissible limit, Nestle India can resume manufacturing. The company had earlier argued that the CEO of FSSAI, while passing the order had acted in an “emergent, drastic and arbitrary” fashion while raising doubts over his jurisdiction. Nestle also argued that the food regulator had not served any notice before passing the ban order. A similar order was passed the Maharashtra Food and Drug Authority.

According to the FSSAI, the bone of contention is Maggi noodles having excessive lead content, which Nestle India has vehemently denied. The company has also been accused of misleading the customers by mentioning “no added msg” on its packets. On the contrary, Nestle India has argued in HC that before asking them to ban the product, there ought to have been a mention of injury or risk to health by the company. Therefore, it was argued in court, that by merely claiming there was a quality issue, the order could not have been passed. The company claimed it has been operating in India for 30 years, in additional to having a worldwide reach.

“Children are being told that they are consuming poison, which is worrisome for its credibility and reputation,” it was argued. Meanwhile, Nestle India has informed Bombay Stock Exchange about the high court’s order, lifting the ban subject to certain conditions.