India's most popular instant noodles, made by Nestle subsidiary Maggi, were recently banned from the country after the food safety authority found excessive amounts of lead in them. Now the Indian government is suing Nestle for $100 million over alleged unfair trade practices.
After several state authorities found high lead levels in their tests in April this year, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India said Nestle had failed to comply with food safety regulations and ordered the company to recall the noodles nationally.
"We are disappointed with the unprecedented step of filing of a complaint before the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) against Nestle India," the company said in a statement.
The company says its products are safe, and has challenged the ban in court. From the Guardian:
Nestlé said its Indian unit had estimated the value of Maggi noodle stocks withdrawn from the shelves at 2.1bn rupees. Another 1.1bn rupees worth of Maggi stocks were in factories and with distributors, the company said. The total amounted to 3.2bn rupees’ worth (£32.3m/US$50.5 million).
Annually, Nestle makes around $240 million selling the noodles in India; their products made up 80 percent of India's instant noodle market before the lead scandal. In an F.A.Q. on their website, the company says tests conducted since the ban found lead levels are within safety guidelines:
In addition to our regular testing of the finished product and raw materials, we have carried out extensive tests of our Maggi noodles in India. To date, Nestlé India has tested more than 2,700 product samples of Maggi noodles, including 1,100 samples at independent accredited labs in India and abroad. These tests represent more than 165 million or 16.5 Crore packets of noodles in total. These tests found that levels of lead in the products were within the food safety limits specified by the Indian authorities, which is why we are saying the products are safe for consumption.
The snacks have been a childhood staple for Indian kids over the last three decades. On Twitter, some Indians worried that they've been eating the noodles their entire lives, while others suggested that if the government wins its court case, the proceeds should really go to all Indians who grew up on Maggi noodles.
Others still took the opportunity to make cracks about the government's recent attempt to ban access to some porn websites:
The noodles are sold in other countries around the world, including the U.S., where the F.D.A. tested and cleared the amount of lead in Maggi noodles in America following the ban in India.
Nestle did not respond to a request for further comment.