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Regulator detects excess lead in Maggi, asks Nestle to furnish daily progress reports

MaggiOn Friday, as Nestle’s global CEO Paul Bulcke asserted in Delhi that Maggi noodles are “safe to eat”, central food safety regulator FSSAI said laboratory tests have found overwhelming evidence that the instant noodles are “unsafe and hazardous” for human consumption.

The FSSAI or Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has issued a series of orders to Nestle, including withdrawing nine versions of its Maggi instant noodles and another product that, it said, was being sold without product approval. The regulator said it reserves the right to prosecute.

In a notice issued after a meeting with Mr. Bulcke on Thursday, the regulator also said it was evident that Nestle had failed to comply with its obligations under India’s food safety laws.

Mr. Bulcke said the company had tested 1000 batches of the noodles in the last few days and “all results of our tests indicate Maggi noodles are safe for consumption.”

“We have the same quality standards and safety procedures everywhere in the world,” he said at a press conference that came hours after Nestle, in a midnight announcement, said it was temporarily recalling its Maggi noodles, which has been under country-wide scrutiny for high lead content and mono-sodium glutamate or MSG, a taste enhancer.

Mr Bulcke said the company had withdrawn the noodles in India because “we feel the consumer was distressed. We are a company that relies on the trust of the consumer,” Nestle’s top executive said, adding, “We will do whatever it takes to clarify unfounded confusion…We will engage with authorities to clarify the issues.”

He said the company was “Trying to learn why there’s difference in test results carried out in other laboratories and ours. There is confusion about how you test… if we put them together, we can see why a difference in test results.”

Even as he fielded questions from reporters came reports that another state, Madhya Pradesh has banned the sale of Maggi. Five states including national capital Delhi had announced temporary bans on sale of the snack on Thursday.

Nestle shares traded off the day’s low on Friday, after falling as much as 5 per cent. Over the previous five sessions, Nestle has fallen 15 per cent because of the controversy over Maggi, which accounts for one-fifth of the company’s revenues.

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