India: Nestle target of damages claim for food contamination
Date: 8 Jun 2015
The Indian government has filed for damages against Nestlé after fears of lead in the Maggi Noodles brand led to a ban on the product by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. According to Reuters, the action is the first time the Indian government has sought damages from a multinational.
Nestlé has said that its noodles which, although not traditional to India, have become popular as a staple food by many Indians, are safe to eat. The FSSAI disagreed after tests of 29 samples showed 15 with more lead than legal limits. It described the product as "unsafe and hazardous for human consumption." The company voluntarily recalled the noodles from sale hours before the ban was implemented, but is seeking to engage the FSSAI on how lead tests are conducted. Such argument about technicalities has fallen far short of reassuring consumers, however, and sales of Nestlé's Maggi brand has suffered as a result. So far, other Nestlé brands such as Nescafé have escaped association.
Whilst Nestlé has been targeted for this action, the authorities are undertaking checks against other instant noodle brands. Issues of lead in India's food chain have been a point of concern for environmentalists for some years. Historic use of lead in paint has been associated with pollution of waterways leading to soil and plant contamination. This makes it likely that other brands have been affected, and some retailers have pro-actively pulled other noodle brands from the shelves until testing results become known.
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