The Bombay high court on Thursday struck down the food safety regulator’s order of a nationwide ban on the sale of Nestle India’s popular 2-minute Maggi noodles.
A division bench of Justice V M Kanade and Justice Burgess Colabawalla allowed the petition filed by Nestle challenging a June 5, 2015 ban imposed on the manufacture and sale of Maggi noodles after samples allegedly tested high for lead content.
The court said that the “principles of natural justice” and procedures were not followed before Food Safety Standard Association of India (FSSAI) imposed the ban. The manner in which even a show cause notice was not issued before the ban, was questioned by the court. The HC said that the samples were not tested at authorized laboratories that were accredited to the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL) raising doubts on the results.
However, it will be some time before Maggi hits the shelves. Observing that it was “still concerned about public interest and public health,” the court has asked Nestle to get five samples each of its nine variants of Maggi noodles tested at three NABL accredited labs at Mohali, Jaipur and Hyderabad. If the lead content in the samples are found to be within permissible limits, then Nestle would be allowed to start manufacture of the noodles.
The labs have been asked to complete the testing process within six weeks. Samples from the newly manufactures Maggi noodles would then be sent for another round of testing at the labs, before it is allowed to be sold.
A plea by the authorities for a stay on the order was rejected by the HC. FSSAI sources said outside the court that they would challenge the order before the Supreme Court.
According to FSSAI, 30 out of 72 samples of the popular Maggi noodles had tested positive for dangerously high levels of lead and even MSG, despite packets proclaiming ‘no added MSG’. FSSAI had alleged that Nestle had “failed to adhere to its own declared policy and principles”.
The company on its part had claimed that the ban was “unauthorised, arbitrary, unconstitutional for violating right to equality and trade” and had violated the principles of natural justice as it had not been given proper hearing. Nestle claimed that its own tests had reported that the Maggi noodles were safe for consumption and none of the countries where it sold the product, including in the UK, Australia and Singapore any problems had been reported.