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Food sector updates - Week 2

Key developments:

  • Food safety authorities are now deeming Maggi safe for consumption following tests by the UK food regulatory authority, and Bombay High Court declaring Maggi noodles fit for export. Nestlé is already exploring ways to relaunch the snack.
  • The Indian food regulator has also come under scrutiny with the Delhi High Court examining corruption charges levied at FSSAI. An article by Deepa Bhajekar has also ascertained that Indian food standards are unreliable.
  • Commenters have also hypothesised repercussions of the Maggi crisis on other noodle brands.
  • FSSAI has come out with a draft protocol on “food recall” and safety standards for heavy metals like lead in a large number of food items—both raw and processed
  • A skill training centre for sensitising street food vendors is to be established by Maharashtra FDA in light of the changes being implemented by the FSSAI.
  • Government is in the process of creating a national platform for private standards for food to address evolving trade rules.
  • The Bombay High Court has deemed Maggi noodles fit for export, but not for domestic consumption. The decision of the court also might have been influenced by protests to the method of incineration used by Nestlé, and other companies, including Unilever, to destroy products, both in the current scenario, and in the past.
  • KFC is defending the safety of its products, as news of discovery of E.Coli and salmonella in chicken served in KFC restaurants in Andhra Pradesh have been circulated in international media.
  • Indo Nissin has stated that the company decided to withdraw its Top Ramen range of products voluntarily, as these products did not have the necessary approvals from the FSSAI, contradictory to previous media reports that FSSAI had ordered the company to recall its products.
  • Madhya Pradesh food regulatory authorities have been unable to meet FSSAI deadlines for submitting reports of tests the state’s labs had conducted on packaged foods.

 

News updates:

UK Food Standards Agency finds made in India Maggi safe to eat- The Times of India, 3 July 2015

UK's Food Standards Agency has cleared Maggi noodles being sold in Britain as safe for consumption. FSA has tested over 900 packets of Maggi being sold in UK.

FSA had earlier said that it had received lab reports from India of Maggi samples and is working with the European Commission to see if packs sold in UK have high levels of lead as found in that in India.

The FSA had earlier said that the batch of noodles originally tested by the authorities in India, which was found to contain undeclared Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) was not sold in the UK.

More labs to keep tabs on food quality- The Hindu, 3 July 2015

The government has taken steps to make available services of 12 accredited laboratories under various departments and universities for the Food Safety Department, considering the difficulties in conducting food safety and quality standard tests in a timely manner.

The labs thus identified are the ones under the Animal Husbandry Department at Maradu, the labs under the Kerala Veterinary University at Pookkode and Mannuthy, the lab under the Fisheries University and Panangad, the milk testing labs of the Dairy Development Department at Pattom and Alathur, the Council for Food Research and Development (CFRD) lab at Konni, and the Pesticide Residues Testing lab at the Kerala Agricultural University.

Our food standards are unreliable – The Hindu Business Line, 2 July 2015

India’s food regulators face a challenge while executing this monitoring process effectively. They need to be equipped with adequate and upgraded infrastructure and resources.

Laboratories need to standardise new test methods to evaluate and quantify additives used in products at very low levels which are functionally critical for the processed food.

Large-scale manufacturers are aware of food quality testing requirements and also have the means to set quality systems and a testing protocol which ensures the safety of their products.

Knowledge and awareness of the importance of quality testing needs to be imparted to all food manufacturers and handlers.

Notice to Centre on graft in apex food regulator – The Tribune, 2 July 2015

Nearly a fortnight after the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) ordered nine variants of Maggi noodles to
be taken off shelves, the Delhi High Court today issued notices to the Authority and Ministry of Health on a PIL that seeks an inquiry into alleged corruption in the apex food regulator and into irregularities in the food product approval system being followed at the FSSAI.

Exclusive - Chocolates may come under FSSAI scanner soon – Bloomberg TV, 2 July 2015

Chocolates are the next food item to flash on the hit-list of the food regulatory body after the nationwide action on Maggie and other popular noodles brands.

The regulator's lenses may focus on major chocolate makers like Nestle, Cadbury, Candyman, Amul, Parle and Ferrero Rocher India.

FSSAI may call for a review of their product quality.

The proposed move is a big step forward by the regulator to protect consumer interest and a stern message to food companies that unhealthy products can no longer be dumped in the world's second largest consumer market.

Lead Levels in Maggi Meet EU Norms: UK Regulator – The Economic Times, 2 July 2015

UK’s food regulator Food Standards Agency (FSA) on Wednesday gave a clean chit to Nestle for Maggi manufactured in India saying levels of lead in the product are well within the EU permissible levels.

“The FSA can confirm that results from testing samples of Maggi Noodles in the UK have all found that levels of lead in the product is well within EU permissible levels and would not be a concern to consumers,” FSA said in statement.

Bombay high court allows Nestle to export Maggi - Mint, 1 July 2015

The Bombay high court on Tuesday allowed Nestle India Ltd to export its Maggi noodles instead of incinerating the ready-to-cook snack, which the company has been force to take off shop shelves and destroy after a ban imposed on the product by the food regulator.

The ruling came in response to an appeal filed by the Indian unit of the Swiss company against the ban, which was imposed following the detection of monosodium glutamate (MSG) and excess quantity of lead in some samples of the 2-minute noodles.

A bench of justices V.M. Kanade and B.P. Colabawala passed the order after the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) said it had no objection to Nestle selling the product abroad though it stood by its decision to ban nine variants of the snack in India.

Counsel for the Maharashtra government also took objection to the ongoing incineration of the noodles packs and said the company should be allowed to export them if it thought them safe. The court agreed.

Earlier in the month Hindustan Unilever Ltd also withdrew its Knorr Chinese range of instant noodles following an 8 June advisory by the FSSAI.

FSSAI to intensify action against companies selling unapproved items – The Economic Times, 1 July 2015

Food safety regulator FSSAI will intensify crackdown on firms selling food products without its approval, following up on the Maggi controversy.

Noting that the industry should follow self-regulation, the official said, "Some companies are recalling unauthorised products on their own. If they don't, we will take strict action. The state food safety officers have powers to confiscate and destroy such products."

As the food safety regulator cracked the whip on companies selling products without its approval, Hindustan Unilever withdrew Knorr Chinese noodles from the market.

Likewise, global cafe chain Starbucks had to stop use of ingredients not approved by the regulator in certain products served at its outlets in India.

Chicken is 100% safe to eat, says KFC – News24.com

KFC South Africa has come out to assure customers that the fast-food giant's food
is safe for consumption after allegations of food contamination in India.

"This allegation relates to KFC India and is in no way linked to KFC South Africa," KFC Africa Managing Director Doug Smart said.

However, he said the incident appears to be a smear campaign.

"KFC India has thoroughly investigated this incident and believe this is a case of malicious intent on the part of some individuals trying to damage our brand reputation."

The Andhra Pradesh Child Rights Association, an NGO, claimed that chicken samples collected from five outlets in the Indian state of Hyderabad were found to have E. coli and salmonella bacteria.

"There are no KFC restaurants in three out of the five locations where samples were allegedly collected from."

How labs find out whether your food is safe - LiveMint, 30 June 2015

The testing is a mix of high-school chemistry and high-end instrumentation and requires a scrupulous adherence to standard procedures.

Food is tested for safety in laboratories accredited to the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL), an autonomous body under the department of science and technology.

There are 12 referral labs and 72 state labs run by the government, and 65 private labs which are NABL-accredited and notified by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI).

To be sure, government labs have been criticized for being ill-equipped and not filling vacant scientist positions by experts as well as government officials.

Food authority justifies ban on Maggi in court – The Times of India, 30 June 2015

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 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.

The FSSAI CEO passed the order against Maggi in larger public interest of consumers and the duty cast by law "to ensure wholesomeness of food in India.''

It also said that the state ban was passed "independent of the FSSAI order'' after "full application of mind''.

After Maggi, Top Ramen withdrawn from Indian market – Press Trust of India, 30 June 2015

"At that time we had sought clarification from FSSAI since Top Ramen product approval is pending with the regulator. They have requested us to withdraw the product until they give the product approval," Indo Nissin Foods Pvt Ltd Managing Director Gautam Sharma said in a statement.

HUL also recalled its Chinese range of 'Knorr' instant noodles from the market pending product approval from FSSAI.

Food authority justifies ban on Maggi in court - The Times of India, 29 June 2015

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on Saturday justified its June 5 ban on Nestle India's 2-minute Maggi noodles in strongly worded 60-page affidavit that questioned the company's safety claims.

FSSAI hit hard at Nestle saying 30 of the 72 samples tested positive for dangerously high levels of lead and even MSG, despite the yellow packets' 'no added MSG' claim. The authority said that the "present situation has arisen only because the petitioner company has visibly failed to adhere to its own declared policy and principles.”

Nestle had challenged orders of FSSAI and the Maharashtra Commisioner of Food Safety instantly banning sale of Maggi instant noodles after tests by the government laboratories on samples take across cities showed lead content beyond the permissible limit of 2.5 part per million (ppm) in India's popular snack.

The FSSAI, affidavit which gave a para wise reply to all of Nestle's 84-para petition, said that Nestle's claim of its private lab tests proving safety of maggi, can be legally challenged only through a suit and not in a writ petition, in any case.

 

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