Citizens' Issues
Maggi banned but what about oil, eggs, vegetables, pulses
Why did Maggi hit the headlines? Maggi’s case -- given its popularity -- is playing out in a blaze of publicity, as more states ban the noodles and has now been withdrawn from the Indian market by its manufacturer Nestle India
 
Maggi two-minute noodles is only the latest food item to be found violative of food-safety standards in India. Consider this: 64 percent of loose edible oils sold in Mumbai is adulterated, according to a study conducted last year by the Consumer Guidance Society of India.
 
The study tested 291 samples of sesame oil, coconut oil, groundnut oil, mustard oil, sunflower oil, cottonseed oil and soybean oil. This apart, arsenic above “critical limits” was found in cereals, pulses, vegetables, roots and tubers. Cadmium above similar criticality was found in cereals, fruits and curd, in a 2013 MS University of Baroda study. Both heavy metals are toxic to human beings.
 
Looking at other items, 28 percent of eggs sampled in Uttar Pradesh’s Bareilly, Dehradun and Izatnagar towns were contaminated with E. coli (effects are said to include diarrhoea, urinary and respiratory infections and pneumonia) and 5 percent with multi-drug resistant salmonella bacteria (Effects: diarrhoea, fever, cramps), according to this 2013 study by the Indian Veterinary Research Institute.
 
More than half of all duck eggs -- a local staple in Kerala -- sampled in the prosperous town of Kottayam were contaminated with salmonella, according to this 2011 study. Nearly 69 percent of 1,791 milk samples in a nationwide study did not conform to Indian standards (though they weren’t necessarily unsafe). Milk, as IndiaSpend reported earlier, is one of the most-commonly adulterated food items in India, followed by oil and eggs.
 
As one can see, we are surrounded by food that is contaminated, adulterated and does not meet Indian safety and packaging standards. What we have presented to you is only a sampling of recent studies on Indian foodstuff.
 
Why did Maggi hit the headlines? Maggi’s case -- given its popularity -- is playing out in a blaze of publicity, as more states ban the noodles and has now been withdrawn from the Indian market by its manufacturer Nestle India.
 
“The trust of our consumers and the safety of our products is our first priority. Unfortunately, recent developments and unfounded concerns about the product have led to an environment of confusion for the consumer, to such an extent that we have decided to withdraw the product off the shelves, despite the product being safe,” said an official statement by Nestle India.
 
“This is a very serious issue as it concerns the safety of consumers. Therefore, for the first time, the government has suo motu complained to the Consumer Commission to take cognisance of the matter on behalf of a class of consumers,” Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan said.
 
The move comes after product samples analysed by Food Safety and Drug Administration (FDA), Uttar Pradesh were found three times above safe limits.
 
The permissible limit of lead in food items like Maggi is 2.5 parts per million (ppm), according to food safety regulations of 2011. Maggi samples analysed by the Uttar Pradesh watchdog were found to have lead concentration nearly seven times higher at 17.2 ppm, raising fears of possible lead poisoning among consumers.
 
The findings of the Uttar Pradesh regulator prompted several states to conduct similar tests on Maggi. Sevral states have not only banned Maggi but also other brad of instant noodles. Since health is a state subject, states have their own regulators to test if the foodstuff adhere to safety regulations.
 
Yet, lead isn’t only in food. And foodstuff isn’t the only item that violates safety standards. The air you breathe, the water you drink, even your walls could hold the main toxin that Maggi noodles are suspected to contain.
 
Lead is also present in household paint. A third of enamel paints analysed had lead concentration above 10,000 ppm -- 111 times more than the prescribed norm of 90 ppm by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), according to a recent study by Toxics Link. The study tested 101 enamel paints, of which 32 paints revealed high lead concentrations. All 32 paints were made by small and medium enterprises.
 
Lead and other carcinogenic heavy metals have also been commonly found in everything from spinach in Delhi and Nagpur to brinjal, tomato and beans in West Bengal. Indeed, there are few vegetables that do not display lead contamination, primarily deposited from vehicular exhaust, as this 2013 study of carrot, radish, beet, cabbage and other vegetables in West Bengal revealed.
 
But one is also unclear about how MSG crept into Maggi. Besides lead, high levels of mono-sodium glutamate (MSG), a taste enhancer, was also found in Maggi.This is a product widely used in what is called “Indian-Chinese” food.
 
MSG should not be added to “pastas and noodles (only dried products)”, according to Food Safety and Standards Rules, 2011. Similarly, glutamate is one of the most common, naturally, occurring non-essential amino acid, which is found in tomatoes, parmesan cheese, potatoes, mushrooms, and other vegetables and fruits.
 
MSG is “generally recognised as safe” by U.S Food and Drug Administration, though it is considered harmful in India. Major complaints arising from MSG use include burning sensations of the mouth, head and neck, headaches, weakness of the arms or legs, upset stomach and hives or other allergic-type reactions with the skin.
 
Maggi is the most recognisable instant noodle brands in India. This could justify the nationwide uproar against revelations of adulteration. This also raises fear of several other food items being adulterated.
 
The bottom line also is India has not kept pace with its toxins. Detection is crucial to counter the growing problem of food adulteration, but the country has not established enough testing laboratories. 
 
But as IndiaSpend finds, India has only 148 food-testing laboratories. This means, each laboratory serves 88 million people. China, by contrast, has one laboratory for every 0.2 million people.
 
The percentage of food samples found not conforming to the regulations increased from 12.77 percdnt in 2011-12 to 18.80 percent in 2013-14 -- a six percentage-point increase over three years, as per national food watchdog data.
 
So, while products are violating safety norms, government agencies have also cracked down on violators. The number of convictions in food-adulteration cases increased from 764 in 2011-12 to 3,845 in 2013-14 -- a 403 percent rise. But does this data provide the full picture?

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COMMENTS

Suketu Shah

2 years ago

By banning Maggi(a heavy weight MNC like Nestle) this sends a very strong message out to other MNC's in India that they are next.Great work by the govt.

New drug may prevent death from flu virus

Instead of targetting the virus that causes flu, the new drug can prevent the blood vessels from leaking fluid into the lung's air sacs

 

Scientists in Canada have developed a new drug that offers an unconventional approach to beat the flu virus.
 
The researchers who found the drug was effective in two different strains of mice and three different strains of flu believe the drug could be effective in animals other than mice, including humans.
 
Instead of targetting the virus that causes flu, the new drug can prevent the blood vessels from leaking fluid into the lung's air sacs.
 
People who die from the flu actually die from respiratory failure, when the lung's tiny blood vessels start leaking fluid into the lung's air sacs.
 
The new drug, Vasculotide, developed by researchers at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto acts on the endothelial cells that line the blood vessels.
 
The drug was effective against multiple strains of influenza, including the 2009 swine flu pandemic strain.
 
"While this research was conducted in mice, I found the results exciting since the drug was effective in two different strains of mice and three different strains of flu," said Warren Lee, a researcher with St. Michael's Hospital's Keenan Research Centre for Biomedical Sciences, who tested the new drug on mice.
 
As the mechanism of blood vessels leaking into lungs is common throughout animals, Lee was optimistic that the drug could be effective in animals other than mice, including humans.
 
Without the drug, 100 percent of the mice died within one week.
 
With the drug, more than 80 percent survived.
 
The drug worked even if it was administered days after the infection began.
 
The drug worked alone and in combination with antivirals and it worked without compromising the body's ability to mount an immune response to the virus.
 
The study appeared in the journal Scientific Reports.
 

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Another 120 cabs impounded in Delhi for flouting rules

Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai meanwhile said he has given Uber, Ola and TaxiForSure a week's time to furnish the data on drivers and vehicles

 

Continuing its crackdown on radio cabs operating in the national capital without proper licences, the Delhi traffic police has impounded another 120 vehicles, taking the total number to 300 in just three days, it was announced on Friday.
 
Delhi Transport Minister Gopal Rai meanwhile said he has given Uber, Ola and TaxiForSure a week's time to furnish the data on drivers and vehicles.
 
"I have met representatives of cab drivers' associations over the past two days and they have told me that they have submitted all their details with the offices of these companies located at Gurgaon. Then why are these companies hesitant to share the data with the transport department?" Rai said while speaking to IANS on the phone.
 
The minister said in a statement issued on Friday evening that the Delhi government told the cab operators that their pending applications for fresh licences would be considered if they agreed to adhere to the existing ban on them, furnish the data on drivers and their vehicles within a week and give an undertaking that they will comply with safety regulations, particularly for women commuters.
 
Special Commissioner of Police, Delhi traffic police, Muktesh Chander, however, told IANS that a large majority of the vehicles were impounded because they were operating in Delhi using an All India Tourist Permit, which allows only trips between states, and not because they did not have a radio taxi licence.
 
"During a special drive undertaken by the Delhi traffic police against unauthorised/unlicensed radio taxis (Ola Cabs, TaxiForSure, Uber) 158 taxis were prosecuted and 120 taxis were impounded during the past 24 hours," he said.
 
He said the drive against unauthorised operation of such radio taxis in Delhi will continue. "All are requested and advised to avail the services of only licensed taxi providers duly authorised by the transport department," he added.
 
Uber, as well as ANI Technologies Pvt Ltd-owned Ola and TaxiForSure, have continued to operate in Delhi even after being banned after a passenger alleged she was raped by a driver booked using the Uber app in December 2014.
 
Reacting to the developments on Friday, an Uber spokesperson told IANS: "We support our partner-drivers fully. Till the last reports came, around 150 cabs have been seized by the Delhi Police."
 
Uber further said: "Our drivers have full liberty to offer services to other operators. Also we have on Friday submitted all the required documents for verification."
 
Uber, Ola, and TaxiForSure have been defying the government ban for six months now.
 
"It is extremely surprising that despite agreeing in the meeting, these companies did not furnish the data within the time limit agreed to by them. It was due to this that their pending applications for fresh licences was rejected," Rai said in a statement.
 
The AAP government has decided to again write to the central government to block the apps of these taxi operators and take strict action against them for not complying with the ban.
 
"We will soon send a reminder to the central government to take action against Uber and Ola cabs for not complying with the ban order," Rai said in the statement.
 
Uber has landed in another controversy with one of its drivers being accused of molesting a woman passenger on May 31 during a ride to Gurgaon.
 
The Delhi government on May 28 had again directed Uber and Ola Cabs to submit details of their drivers and vehicles if they wanted to "regularise" their services in the city, but according to the minister, they have "not turned up" so far.
 

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