The company also complained about the arbitrary, unreasonable manner in which the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India had banned the sales of MaggiNestle India on Friday opposed in the Supreme Court a plea by the food regulator to stay a Bombay High Court order that allowed the company to resume sales of Maggi noodles in the country if fresh laboratory tests found the product fit for human consumption.
The company also complained about the arbitrary, unreasonable and non-transparent manner in which the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India had banned the sales of Maggi noodles in June after samples were found to contain monosodium glutamate, a flavor enhancer, and excessive levels of lead.
“The action of the food authority was arbitrary and high-handed insofar as samples were taken only from three variants, however, all nine variants were banned,” Nestle said in its first response to a court notice on the FSSAI’s challenge to the Bombay High Court order. The FSSAI had also challenged the Bombay court’s decision that all such tests should be carried out by accredited labs.
This would render most testing facilities in the country useless, the authority claimed. Nestle said the ruling was in public interest and that non-accredited labs would destroy the credibility of the food-testing regime. The company claimed that it wasn’t given adequate opportunity to prove that Maggi noodles were safe for human consumption.
“It is only when contamination of food is an imminent threat that immediate order of prohibition can be passed…whereas there was no risk analysis made by the food authorities to determine the extent of damage that would be caused by consumption of the product,” Nestle said in an affidavit.
The company said it should have been first told how its product did not meet the requirements and asked to
comply with it.
The FSSAI banned the product and issued a show-cause notice later, asking why the product approval shouldn’t be cancelled. The company said the first round of testing was done by labs that were not approved to detect the presence of lead in samples.
The FSSAI had directed that tests be made for lead and monosodium glutamate. The Bombay High Court’s order permitting Nestle to resume sales following two fresh tests – of old and new samples – was therefore right, the company said.
The samples were taken by the food safety officer and cleared tests for lead conducted by three accredited labs. Sales resumed on November 9 after the tests showed that lead was within permissible limits. Nestle has resumed production of Maggi noodles at all five of its plants – in Punjab, Karnataka, Uttarakhand, Goa and Himachal Pradesh.
Therefore, there was no need for any further stay on the high court order allowing fresh sales, Nestle contended. The company claimed it had sent fresh samples abroad to labs in Europe and all of them had declared Maggi safe for consumption. Nestle has also sought a stay from the top court on proceedings pending against it in the national consumer court.