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Food authority justifies ban on Maggi in Bombay High Court

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on Saturday justified its June 5 ban on Nestle India‘s 2-minute Maggi noodles in a strongly-worded, 60-page affidavit that questioned the company’s safety claims.The FSSAI filed its reply in the Bombay high court to Nestle India’s challenge to the ban. The authority said the “present situation has arisen only because the petitioner company has visibly failed to adhere to its own declared policy and principles.“

The FSSAI said barring the fact that the company has been manufacturing and selling Maggi for the last 30 years, its other claims of having in place “strict food safety and quality control at all Maggi factories…“ is “incorrect“. The authority then added, “If for the sake of argument it is presumed that all the safety claims regarding its manufacturing activities and processes are true, then the widespread presence of lead, a known poison, in its products can only be presumed to be intentional. It is impossible that such high levels of lead can escape the scrutiny of a reasonably well-equipped laboratory,“ the authority said.

The high court bench, headed by Justice V M Kanade, will on June 30 again hear Nestle’s challenge to the ban which it had not stayed at the first hearing on June 12. Nestle had challenged orders of the FSSAI and the Maharashtra Commissioner of Food Safety instantly banning sale of Maggi instant noodles after tests by the government laboratories on samples taken across cities showed lead content beyond the permissible limit of 2.5 part per million (ppm) in India’s popular snack. The company had said its own tests found the noodles safe to eat, but had assured the HC that it would withdraw the packets from store racks in compliance with the order. Nestle said the ban was “unauthorised, arbitrary, unconstitutional for violating right to equality and trade“ and had violated principles of natural justice since it was not allowed a proper hearing. The FSSAI denied all these contentions and said the company was given a hearing and that the showcause notice was issued only for Nestle to show why its products, which are non-standardised and require government approvals in law, ought to be approved for the future.

“The fact that the petitioners have refrained from filing a chart summary test reports and results conducted on Maggi since October 2014 can only create suspicion,“ said FSSAI.

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