Manufactured Hysteria over Maggi
Will it make our food safer and address real issues?
There is more manufactured hysteria around Maggi noodles than we have ever had when scores of people, including children, have died of poisoning due to adulterated sweets during Diwali, or adulterated liquor. The excess lead in the noodles has not killed anybody. Yet, entire cities are being emptied of Maggie noodles. 
A court in Muzaffarpur (Bihar) has decided that real culprit is not Nestlé, but the three film-stars who endorsed Maggi—Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta (12 years ago). A case is registered against them for misleading people. Not to be left behind, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has asked Madhuri Dixit to explain the nutritional content in Maggi noodles in 15 days. 
Nothing shows up India as a semi-literate banana republic than this manufactured mischief. Before discussing this further, let me make it clear that I hold no brief for Maggi noodles or Nestlé. What we eat is often unhealthy processed food, which is bad for our health. Large food companies lobby to keep Bureau of Industrial Standards (BIS) norms vague enough to allow them to walk the thin line between truth and falsehood. Corrupt or careless government officials ensure that we eat dozens of chemical additives such as preservatives, colouring agents, emulsifiers, stabilisers, gelling agents, thickeners, flavour enhancers (like mono sodium glutamate, which is not banned in the US), sequestering and buffering agents and sweeteners. All these make our processed food tasty and give it a long shelf-life. 
Government officials also maintain a deafening silence about aflatoxins in milk, growth hormones injected into livestock, excessive use of pesticides and fertilisers across India. Do you know that even breast milk was found to contain urea? 
Have you ever seen the FDA go after possible carcinogens such as butylated hydroxyanisole (E320) and potassium bromate which are present in breakfast cereal and our daily bread made by top brands? Or a dangerous dye, like rhodamine-B, that gives candyfloss its fluorescent pink colour? Or even major brands of lipstick which are repeatedly found to be high in lead content all over the world? Yes, we are talking about names like L’Oreal, Christian Dior, Lakmé and Maybelline. 
The FSSAI’s (Food Safety Standards Authority of India) over-the-top reaction to the finding of excess lead in Maggi noodles seems to suggest that the multinational company is deliberately trying to destroy India with lead poisoning. So let’s get some perspective on this issue. 
All over the world, when things can go wrong, it leads to recall of food products, medicines or even automobiles. Regulators inspect and isolate the problem; get defective, contaminated, sub-standard products off the shop shelves; and ensure corrective action and penalty. Whipping up a nationwide hysteria smacks of regulatory terrorism rather than serious action. 
We are happy the government is concerned about our health, but we would like to see it in the form of clear policies, labelling, inspection and even-handed, continuous action against dangerous additives rather than selective madness. 
Finally, if the courts plan to go after brand ambassadors, how about docking regulators first? Moneylife has argued since inception that celebrity endorsements cause maximum damage when used to hawk financial products such as insurance. Why is the insurance regulator allowing it, when the capital market regulator has banned celebrity endorsements for 25 years? 
Dr. Rakesh Goyal
8 years ago
Possibility can not be ruled out that targeting a Swiss company may be a strategy to pressurize Swiss government to release black money accounts details in that country. A wild thought but possibility exist. If true, kudos to government to hit Swiss where it hurts them most.
Pradeep Kumar
Replied to Dr. Rakesh Goyal comment 8 years ago
Maggie has little to do with lead.
I stand with our Govt,
I am an AAP Man, still.
8 years ago
Can anyone say how many deaths in this country have been caused owing to consumption of maggi with the so-alleged 'high lead content'. How many deaths are occuring every day every hour, due to poor water and air quality? Who is responsible for such deaths? Packaged water companies are mushrooming in the country, in utter disregard of the WHO standards. Regulatory authority like ISI is turning blind eye to this. Once in a way they check and then connive. Maggi reaction is nothing and nothing but knee-jerk just to show to the west that we are also a country which will take action against US Companies. This is not what people want but an action in right earnest, be it a westerner or an indian. Law should be the supreme. Can those in power ensure this? I doubt not.
8 years ago
An interesting post on this matter
Narendra Doshi
8 years ago
well said and rightly broad based on issues.
Silloo Marker
8 years ago
There seems to be more behind this sudden madness over Maggi. Since the authorities have hardly ever thought of ensuring standards that would protect citizens'health, this concern seems rather strange to say the least. Nestle is certainly big fish and likely to cough up a few millions if it comes to that - of course, the beneficiaries would make sure it remains discreet - so why pick on the small fry who dole us out daily doses of some poisonous stuff or the other?
Nalin Patel
8 years ago
what about street food we consume are they safe, collectively they are much bigger than maggie, do not are they contaminated???
Pradeep Kumar
8 years ago
You miss the point Ms Dalal, when we had waves of fake Church attacks plastered all over the world, so also with rape movie, we are hitting back, just like in Myanmar. Remember Modi's nose was rubbed on the ground by the west by asking him to please MMS.
Suketu Shah
8 years ago
Food adulteration at all levels in India is at an alltime high.Well known restuarants which were not indulging in the same are doing since last 4-5 yrs.Targeting Maggi (an MNC Nestle) govt has sent a strong message to start with.
8 years ago
I hope this article not manufactured by nestle?
R S Murthy
Replied to Ashoka.kalgude comment 8 years ago
Why Nestle to doctor the script? It has become fashion for us to blame some one. Please see all tobacco products are Liquor contain a warning 'Injurious to Health' how many of us stopped using them. Tommorrow if Nestle is going to put such warning on all packets, do we stop consuming them? We certainly loose an opprtunity to blame?Our slogan is I do not take care of my health but food maker should understand my constitution, make the stuff accordingly and sell to me. How rediculous?
R S Murthy
8 years ago
In India we react peculiarly.Normal common sense says palatable food is not good for health and healthy food will not be tasty. We have no control on our own palate but speak loud how Government failed to control. Knowing the weakness of our people, advertisers go all out to lure the public. Every one of us know very well these celebrities are not experts but work for money. We believe blindly BOOST is the secret of all Indian Cricketers and salt in Colgate paste cures all dental problems. Hanuman Yantra or Kuber Chakra bestows all prosperity. These are the people who helped Sahara and other chit companies to grow big.
8 years ago
selective madness. yes. but let it give way to some method. hopefully
8 years ago
Sure. Succinctly summarised. I am wondering as to why the government did not take cognizance of this revelation since the launch of the product per se? Is it the laxity of the regulator over the last 3 decades? or Is it the Firm refused to heed to the advise of the regulator? Why is it that regular road side or even budget hotels/restaurants are spared which are all over the places where people throng in the name of delectable street food? Why cant regulator ensure that the safe and healthy food is provided to the consumer by any source: be it street side vendor or packaged food industry or "licensed" restaurants? Again this whole issue is going to die a natural one much as we have seen in earlier instances.
Nitin Deshpande
8 years ago
Its true that many things around us are contaminated. Like Paclobutrazol to induce flowers and fruiting in Mango, chemicals and fertilizers traces in food. It starts from early morning when you brush your teeth with the damn toothpaste. Maggi is a worst food our children eat. And I love to see this happens time and again with such things to make people scary as even if they are manufactured they are not false either.
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