The damage that 2 Food Inspectors in a derelict Government lab wrought is mind-boggling. It has been proved then, it has been proved since – there never was any lead beyond prescribed limits in the much-loved Maggi Instant Noodles. The best private labs in the country had confirmed it. So has the Central Government’s own CFTRI, set up to be the vanguard of food technology in India. Yet havoc had been wreaked without a squeak of protest from freedom-loving intellectuals. Freedom of business is as important as freedom of speech.
On 5th June, 2015, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) directed Nestle to recall all variants of Maggi Instant Noodles because “It is clear from the reports received from various states that there is overwhelming evidence of the said food products being unsafe and hazardous for human consumption.”
Strangely, USA, Canada, Australia and Singapore continued to import and consume the same ‘hazardous’ noodles made in India.
This idiotic cussedness of the FSSI caused 27,000 Tonnes of food to be destroyed. The very process of destruction took, 10,000 trucks, crushers and incinerators in 5 cement plants, and over 40 days of double-shift effort. Apart from this wanton wastage is the huge loss. To Nestle and it’s shareholders. The hundreds of contract workers who lost their jobs. The farmers who were suppliers to Nestle’s factories. The thousands of small entrepreneurs, shack and pushcart vendors, who used Maggi as the base to churn out quick meals. And of course, the consumers who lost their favourite fast food.
What was the FSSI trying to prove? If they were right that the Lead content was above the limits, then the limits themselves were wrongly pegged. Because Maggi was tested in the largest laboratory in the world for 30 years. How many millions of Indians consumed it in these decades (last year apparently Maggi sold 125 crore packets, one per Indian)? And how many showed signs of lead poisoning? Not one. Now that they are proved wrong about their ‘high content ‘ results, who pays for the gigantic blooper? Will even one of these gloating consumer protectors lose his job? No. As always we pay for it, the tax-payer. And all the private players, big and small.
I wonder, activists always rush in to file class action suits against corporates on behalf of consumers: can the consumers file one against the FSSI and sue the sorry outfit out of existence?
(Initially posted on 2, December, 2015)