By: Saurav Devedi

Lucknow

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, the Central authority mandated to look out for the interest of consumers and also to ensure that “safe” and “wholesome” food is available to all, seems to be batting for welfare of food businesses rather than consumers. Months after the Central government moved court against Nestle India for alleged unfair trade practices, FSSAI has, on March 31, issued orders contradicting its actions against the multinational. In August 2015, Central government filed a class action suit against Nestle India, the manufacturer of Maggi noodles, seeking Rs 640 crore in damages from the company for alleged unfair trade practices, false labelling and misleading advertisements. The ministry’s action followed Nestle India’s decision to withdraw Maggi noodles from the market over allegations of high lead content and the presence of MSG (monosodium glutamate). Despite the government’s action in August 2015, FSSAI now seems to have had a change of heart, a change that will not only benefit Nestle India, but also all other noodle and pasta manufacturers. In its March 31 order, which pertains to a “clarification on use of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) as flavour enhancer in seasoning for Noodles and Pastas”, FSSAI first says, “There is no analytical method to determine whether MSG was added to the product during its manufacture or was present already in the product.Immediately after saying there is no analytical method to determine presence of MSG during the manufacturing process of a product, the FSSAI order adds: “To prevent both avoidable harassment/ prosecution of food business operators as well as to ensure that consumers are facilitated to exercise informed choices in respect of what they eat, proceedings may be launched against FBOs only when the labels state ‘No MSG’, or ‘No Added MSG’ and MSG is actually found in the impugned foodstuff.” In its final words, FSSAI has also directed food safety commissioners of all states to no launch enforcement or prosecution against manufacturers of noddles and pastas. The order said, “Commissioners of food saftery are advised that specific enforcement/prosecution may not be launched against the manufacturers of noodles / pasta on account of presence of MSG/Glutamic acid unless it is ascertained by the department that MSG flavour enhancer was deliberately added during the course of the manufacture without declaration on the label…” Interestingly, the March 31 office order comes close on the heels of the Authority’s office order directing the winding up of its sub- regional office of FSSAI, in Lucknow, the same office that was instrumental in seizing the contested samples of Maggi noodles. The Lucknow office of FSSAI, which was officially closed down on March 31, is also in possession of what might be the only remaining samples of Maggi for future lab testing and sampling.

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