Food inspectors have ordered Nestle India to recall a batch of Maggi noodles from shops across Uttar Pradesh, saying the product contained dangerous levels of lead.
The Food Safety and Drug Administration or FDA in Uttar Pradesh said high lead content was found during routine tests conducted in Kolkata on two dozen packets of instant noodles, manufactured by Nestle in India. Packets of noodles belonging to this batch have been recalled from shops and additional batches of Maggi are now being sent for testing.
Two FDA officials said all the packets of instant noodles tested in the state-run laboratory were contaminated. They found a lead concentration of 17.2 parts per million (ppm), nearly seven times the permissible limit. The FDA officials said the acceptable limit of lead ranges between 0.01 ppm and 2.5 ppm.
The scientists also found high levels of added monosodium glutamate or MSG, a taste enhancer, in the noodles.
"Maggi instant noodles contained dangerous amount of lead and MSG. We had to immediately issue orders against the company," DG Srivastava, deputy inspector general of the FDA in Lucknow, told Reuters.
Nestle India, a subsidiary of Swiss-based Nestle SA, said it had strict safety and quality controls in place for all raw materials used to make Maggi noodles.
"We do not add MSG to Maggi Noodles, and glutamate, if present, may come from naturally occurring sources," it said.
"We are also aware of the reports of elevated levels of lead in a pack of MAGGI Noodles analyzed by the authorities. We regularly monitor for lead as part of our stringent quality control processes, including testing by accredited laboratories. These tests have consistently shown lead levels in MAGGI Noodles to be within permissible limits," said Nestle in a statement
A company spokesman confirmed Uttar Pradesh had ordered it to withdraw the batch dating back to March 2014, but added the items concerned had either already been consumed or were beyond the sell-by date, making the recall difficult.
Mr Srivastava said his team collected more than two dozen packs of instant noodles from stores across the state and tested each pack separately before making the findings public.
"Our experts conducted several tests and each time the results were shocking," he told Reuters. The FDA in Uttar Pradesh is now exploring legal options against the company.