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Indian Food Safety Agency Orders Recall of Instant Noodles for Dangerous Levels of Lead

May 22, 2015

India's Food Safety and Drug Administration (FDA) has ordered Nestle India to recall a batch of Maggi instant noodles from stores nationwide because the product contained dangerous levels of lead.

Food inspectors in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh said high lead content was found during routine tests on two dozen packets of instant noodles, manufactured by Nestle in India, Reuters reports.

Officials said they found a lead concentration of 17.2 parts per million (ppm) in all the packets tested, nearly seven times the permissible limit. The acceptable lead range is between 0.01 ppm and 2.5 ppm. High levels of monosodium glutamate (MSG), a taste enhancer, were also found in the noodles. "Maggi instant noodles contained dangerous amount of lead and MSG. We had to immediately issue orders against the company," D.G. Srivastava, deputy inspector general of the FDA in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, told Reuters.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the build-up of lead in the body that leads to lead poisoning can occur over a period of months or years. Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems and children under 6 are especially vulnerable to lead's toxic effects, which can severely affect mental and physical development. At very high levels, lead poisoning can prove fatal.

Nestle India, a subsidiary of Swiss-based Nestle SA, said it has strict safety and quality controls 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. We are surprised with the content supposedly found in the sample as we monitor the lead content regularly as a part of the regulatory requirements," Nestle said. The company confirmed that Uttar Pradesh officials had ordered Nestle to withdraw a batch of noodles dating back to March 2014. The recall will be difficult to implement, Nestle said, because the recalled packets had either been consumed or were past the sell-by date, according to Reuters.

FDA official Srivastava said the instant noodles his team tested were from stores across the state. Packets were tested separately before the findings were made public. Srivastava told Reuters the test results were "shocking," and he has asked federal food inspectors in New Delhi for a wider investigation of the noodles.

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