USFDA not forthcoming on details of investigation.
By Sujeet Rajan
NEW YORK: Maggi noodles may be banned in the United States; ordered off from retail store shelves across the country, if high levels of lead content is found in samples currently being tested by the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA).
Although the USFDA is not forthcoming on the investigation, the results being withheld, a Nestlé company spokesperson, based in Zurich, Switzerland, said in an interview to Reuters that the USFDA has begun testing samples to determine if a recall was necessary or not.
“We have been made aware that the (US) FDA has taken samples of Maggi noodles manufactured in India from third-party importers’ containers for testing, and we have asked the importers to advise us of the outcome of the FDA tests,” a Nestle spokesperson said in an emailed statement, to Reuters.
The spokesperson added that Nestle does not import, market or distribute Maggi noodles in the US; it’s sourced directly by retailers and other third-party businesses.
“Any Maggi noodle products found on US store shelves are sourced directly by retailers or imported through third-party trade,” the spokesperson added.
Asked by The American Bazaar today to confirm if the USFDA was conducting an investigation of Maggi samples, a spokesperson stuck to an e-mailed response sent on Wednesday, without giving additional information.
“The FDA is aware of Nestlé’s removal of Maggi brand noodles from the Indian marketplace. The agency is looking into the issue. At this time it is not clear whether U.S. products are affected by the ongoing recall in India,” Lauren E. Sucher, Press Officer, USFDA, wrote in the e-mail.
Maggi noodles, which has already been recalled voluntarily by Nestlé in India, has had mixed response to test samples internationally.
Food regulators in Singapore tested Maggi samples and found it within their prescribed lead consumption limits. Bahrain, however, banned the import and sales of the product. The once-popular instant noodles, targeted primarily at households with children and busy parents, have also been withdrawn from shops in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and South Sudan. Canada and the United Kingdom are testing samples. There is no word as yet if Australia plans to test Maggi samples for lead and MSG content.
It’s important the USFDA reveal publicly its investigation of Maggi noodles. Going by the fact that some states in India had given a clean chit to the product, while others did not, it’s obvious that large batches of Maggi are tainted.
An investigation of the Maggi noodles samples in New York may differ, say from California, especially if the samples were sourced from different parts of India; the manufacturing date of the product is also an important factor. Exactly how many samples are being tested, and from which states, and who are these businesses that source them, and from whom, are all important questions the USFDA need to answer.
Earlier, The American Bazaar reported that the California Department of Public Health is currently evaluating if it’s necessary to go forward with independent tests to determine if the product is safe to be sold in stores in the state.
Read that story here: California evaluating conducting tests on Maggi Noodles, USFDA dithers on issue
Maggi noodles got into trouble in India for excess levels of MSG and lead in its pouches.
The USFDA classifies MSG as a “food additive Generally Recognized as Safe when used as a salt substitute in accordance with Good Manufacturing Practices. No specific level is identified.”
The lead levels likely would be the determining factor if the product is recalled from the US or not.
According to the USFDA, the permissible levels for lead in candy is at 0.1 ppm. The amount of lead found in Maggi noodles samples tested in India was found to be 17.2 ppm, more than seven times the permissible levels.
Excess levels of lead is most damaging when children are six years and younger. It could lead to learning disabilities resulting in low IQ, attention deficit disorder, speech and language impairment, decreased bone growth, and kidney damage, among other ailments.
Maggie noodles itself is a money churner for Nestle, and sales in the US indicate that a vast number of people consume it.
According to Zauba.com, in the last two years, India has exported 22,94,057 units of Maggi noodles worth $1,68,33,520. The US, Canada and the UK the list of top 10 importers of Maggi noodles. USA alone imports 35% of India’s overall exports.
In the first five months of 2014, Nestle India exported 1,84,230 units of Indian flavors to the US and that figure rose to 2,11,901, in the corresponding period, in 2015.
In India, Nestle is readying itself for a long legal fight over the recall.
It approached the Bombay High Court today against the ban by central food safety regulator FSSAI and Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration, reported IBN.
“As part of the efforts to resolve the Maggi noodles issue, Nestle India on Thursday approached the Bombay High Court, raising issues of interpretation of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2011 while seeking a judicial review of the order dated June 6, 2015, passed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Maharashtra and the order dated June 5 passed by FSSAI,” Nestle India said in a filing to the BSE. “At the same time, we are continuing withdrawal of Maggi noodle products. This action will not interfere with this process,” it added.