Food inspectors in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh have ordered Nestle India to recall a batch of Maggi instant noodles from stores across the country because the product contained dangerous levels of lead.
India’s Food Safety and Drug Administration (FDA) 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 range is between 0.01 ppm and 2.5 ppm. Tests also showed high levels of added monosodium glutamate (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,” D.G. Srivastava, deputy inspector general of the FDA in Lucknow, the capital of Uttar Pradesh, told Reuters.
Lead poisoning occurs when lead builds up in the body, which often occurs over a period of months or years, according to the Mayo Clinic. Even small amounts of lead can cause serious health problems and children under 6 are especially vulnerable to lead poisoning. Lead poisoning can severely affect mental and physical development. At very high levels, lead poisoning can be fatal.
Nestle India, which is a subsidiary of Swiss-based Nestle SA, said strict safety and quality controls were 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. 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. A company spokesman confirmed that Uttar Pradesh had ordered Nestle to withdraw a batch of noodles dating back to March 2014. But the company said the recall would be difficult to implement because the batch subject to recall had either been consumed already or were beyond the sell-by date, according to Reuters.
FDA official Srivastava said the packets of instant noodles his team tested were from stores across the state. Each packet was tested separately before the findings were made public. Srivastava told Reuters that he found the test results “shocking,” and said his team had approached federal food inspectors in New Delhi to launch a wider investigation of the noodles.