The government’s request was opposed by Nestlé India, which has indicated that it wants to get on with business after the Bombay high court set aside the ban
New Delhi: India’s apex consumer tribunal has accepted the government’s plea for testing the Maggi Noodles samples kept by Nestlé India Ltd at the food regulator’s storage in Lucknow around the time the product was banned from the market in June.
The government’s request to the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) was opposed by Nestlé India, which has indicated that it wants to get on with business after the Bombay high court set aside the ban, and its products were found safe by accredited laboratories.
“We are disappointed that the Hon’ble Commission has today given Order directing further testing of 16 samples..,” said a Nestle India spokesperson. in a statement. “In recent months alone, Nestlé India has conducted over 3,500 tests representing over 200 million packs in both national as well as international accredited laboratories for testing and all reports are clear.”
Maggi noodles were banned by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) for allegedly containing a flavouring agent and lead in excess of prescribed norms.
The Bombay high court lifted the ban in August, conditional to fresh testing of the noodles that would be produced at the company’s plants. Those cleared the tests, and Nestlé has relaunched the noodles with much fanfare and to an overwhelming reception from the market. The food regulator has appealed that the Bombay high court’s order in the Supreme Court.
Meanwhile, the government and the Indian arm of the Swiss MNC have continued to fight it out in the NCDRC, which on Wednesday allowed the fresh testing. The accredited lab for conducting the tests to determine levels of lead and monosodium glutamate (MSG) is likely to be decided on Thursday.
The samples were initially to be sent to an accredited lab in Mumbai, but this was opposed by Nestlé India, which told the court that the lab was not adequately equipped to test for levels of lead.
The process of sending samples is set to begin on 14 December and the report will be produced before court on 12 January, along with the test report of 13 samples sent to the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) in Mysore.
The government, which has initiated action against Nestlé India on behalf of consumers in the apex consumer court, on 23 November sought permission for further testing of 31 batches of Maggi at an accredited laboratory to settle the question of safety. These samples are from the stock that Nestlé India kept at an FSSAI godown in Lucknow.
A bench of the NCDRC comprising justices V.K. Jain and B.C. Gupta, which heard the case, reserved its decision on 1 December and asked the government to submit a list of accredited and recognized laboratories where the tests could be conducted.
On 15 October, the NCDRC ordered tests on 13 samples of the noodle at the Central Food Technological Research Institute. The results are awaited.
Nestlé India contested the government application, claiming it would amount to exceeding the scope of the case placed before the consumer forum.
“It is an adversarial litigation and must be restricted to the scope of pleadings,” Nestlé India said in its legal filings.
The government continued to press for testing, saying that it was the first case of its kind where the concern of consumers was being voiced in the interest of justice.
It claimed that testing was justified under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986.
The government, in a class action suit, has claimed a compensation of `640 crore from the company, alleging unfair trade practices, false labelling and misleading advertisements.