On 3rd June, it was reported that Nestlé India’s Maggi instant noodles underwent tests nationwide after high lead levels were found in batches sold in the country’s north.
After which, the government in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh asked Nestle India to recall a batch of Maggi noodles after it found large amounts the harmful ingredients – lead content of 17.2 parts per million (ppm), 7 times the legal limit – in packets manufactured in February 2014.
As such, the authorities in India have banned the sale of Maggie noodles, a staple food not only in India but also in several places around Southeast Asia such Singapore as well as Malaysia. The state’s food inspectors even went as far as to file a criminal complaint against Nestle India, a subsidiary of Swiss-based giant Nestle, while a separate petition was filed against Bollywood stars who have advertised the noodles.
Following news of the ban, CNA wrote that Singapore, too, will be halting sales of the noodles. The Agri-Food & Veterinary Authority of Singapore (AVA) said on Thursday (4th June) that it has told importers to temporarily withhold sales of Maggi brand instant noodles produced in India.
AVA explained Singapore has imported a small amount of Maggi brand instant noodles from India, but has not brought in Maggi brand oat products produced there. It is testing samples of Maggi brand instant noodles manufactured in India and it has advised affected importers to stop selling them until tests are complete.
How does lead get into food, you ask? According to WSJ:
Industrial emissions, car exhaust and even activities like shooting lead bullets at firing ranges can all put particles of the heavily-toxic metal in the air. For years, lead was added to gasoline until the US . banned it as an additive in 1986. By 2011 almost all countries, including India, had phased out leaded gasoline, according to the United Nations Environment Program.
It also gets into the soil and water through lead pipes and lead-based paints. The metal is a stubborn contaminant: it can travel far and it clings to soil and remains in the upper layers of dirt.
The United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also wrote that once it’s on food it “cannot always be completely removed by washing or other steps”.
Lead can even find its way into everything from fruit juices and baby food to chili powder.
The next question is, is our beloved “mamak” staple/supper/nothing-else-to-eat-at-home favourite safe to eat in Malaysia?
Editor: My personal favourite is Maggi Asam Laksa, by the way. I’d be so heartbroken if I’m not allowed to eat it anymore!
According to The Star Online, Nestlé Malaysia has released a statement to reassure consumers locally that its products are safe for consumption. They clarified that its products, including the Maggi noodles, are manufactured under “stringent manufacturing conditions” that meet both local and international standards and are safe for consumption.
The company said in a statement:
All Nestlé products are manufactured under stringent manufacturing conditions that meet both local and international standards and are safe for consumption. MAGGI products sold and marketed by Nestlé Malaysia are produced locally.
Nestlé has in place strict food safety and quality controls at all our manufacturing facilities, including thorough quality checks at each stage of our raw material sourcing and manufacturing process. This includes comprehensive testing to ensure that Nestlé Malaysia products fully comply with all applicable food safety laws and regulations, as well as our own high standards of quality and safety before they reach our consumers. All Nestlé Malaysia’s product ingredients used comply with local food laws and regulations.
Further to this, Nestlé Malaysia regularly monitors the level of lead as part of our stringent quality control processes, including testing by accredited laboratories. These tests have consistently confirmed that all products are in compliance with local food laws and regulations.
Nestlé Malaysia also claimed that it regularly monitors for lead as part of its strict quality control processes.
As at time of writing, there are no plans for the company to recall their Maggi instant noodles products. So go ahead and have that nice plate of Maggi goreng!
For more information, consumers can call the Nestlé consumer services hotline at 1-800-88-3433.