Maggi Row: High Lead Content in 1 Batch Can't Justify Blanket Ban, Says Nestle

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Maggi Row: High Lead Content in 1 Batch Can't Justify Blanket Ban, Says Nestle

If a particular batch of Maggi (in pic) was substandard, it could have been banned but stopping the entire production was not justified, argued Nestle's lawyer, senior advocate Iqbal Chhagla. (File Photo)

Mumbai:  Nestle India, manufacturer of Maggi noodles, told the Bombay High Court on Friday that a certain batch of its instant food product may have contained lead beyond permissible limit but the government's decision to impose a blanket ban was unfair and illegal.

If a particular batch was substandard, it could have been banned but stopping the entire production was not justified, argued Nestle's lawyer, senior advocate Iqbal Chhagla.

"Without receiving any complaint, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has banned our product, due to which we lost goodwill, reputation and suffered huge losses running into crores of rupees," Mr Chhagla said.

The court was hearing a petition filed by Nestle against FSSAI's June 5 order banning nine variants of Maggi and the Maharashtra government's order prohibiting the sale of Maggi.

Of the 30,000 tonnes of Maggie distributed in the market, the company had destroyed 25,000 tonnes, Mr Chhagla told the division bench headed by Justice VM Kanade.

The decision to ban Maggi was without application of mind, arbitrary and without any evidence, the lawyer said.

"We have tested our product in 2700 laboratories in India and also abroad and the tests have indicated that the lead content was less than the permissible limit of 0.5 per cent," Nestle's counsel said.

The laboratories where FSSAI tested Maggi were not accredited by National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL), he alleged. Moreover, some of the laboratories were not notified under FSSAI Act and accreditation of some others had not been renewed, he added.

"For the sake of argument, we are accepting that there could be lead content beyond permissible limit in a certain batch of Maggie, but for this the decision to ban the entire product was not correct," Mr Chhagla argued.

In seven states, the lead content in Maggi samples was found to be above the permissible limit while in 20 states it was found to be within the limit, Mr Chhagla said.

Nestle was a reputed company and present in India for 30 years and Maggi was favourite of working women and college students, he said.

Mr Chhagla also claimed that the company regularly tested its products in its in-house labs and also outside. Further, its in-house labs had been "upgraded" by NABL, he said.

The arguments would continue on July 20.

The HC had earlier refused to stay the ban on Maggi. It said that Maggi noodles had already been withdrawn by the company, so there was no need to stay the ban.

However, it allowed Nestle India to export Maggi.

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The HC had also held that the authorities were entitled to prosecute the company in case of procedural lapses but they must give the company 72 hours' notice.

FSSAI has contended that "the company has failed to adhere to its own declared policy and principles" and it had been given a hearing and issued a show-cause notice before the action was taken.
 

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