Bengaluru: Karnataka on Sunday became the latest state to ban manufacture and sale of Nestle's Maggi noodles following a central food watchdog directive.
"The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) directed us to temporarily stop Nestle India from manufacturing or selling its noodles, including variants, in the state as a precautionary measure to ensure public health," state Health Minister U.T. Khader told IANS.
Though preliminary results of tests conducted at a private lab here indicated that the levels of lead in the noodles were below the permissible limit, the state health department advised stakeholders to refrain from marketing, distributing and selling the noodles, and also asked the public not to consume it.
"We have also directed the company (Nestle) to withdraw its Maggi stocks from all stores and retail formats across the state. Stringent action will be taken against offenders," Khader said.
The Swiss food and beverages multinational has four production units to make noodles, including a captive plant at Nanjungud near Mysuru, about 180 km from here.
"We will consider further action against the company after we get the final test report from the central food laboratory in Kolkata," Khadar said.
After dithering initially, the health department on June 1 picked up samples of Maggi noodles from its manufacturing units and retail outlets, for tests by the state-run Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) at Mysuru and two private laboratories in Bengaluru.
When CFTRI declined to test the samples, citing jurisdiction and rules governing it, the health department asked the private labs to ascertain the lead and MSG (monosodium glutamate) content in Maggi noodles.
"We are waiting for test reports on MSG content in Maggi from the private labs, which is expected on Monday. If the tests confirm that it's harmful for consumption, we will totally ban it (Maggi). We will also advise eateries to remove it from menu," Khader reiterated.
According to the regulator FSSAI, the multinational company violated three mandatory conditions by having lead in excess of the permissible levels of 2.5 ppm (parts per million), misleading labelling information on the product label and selling Maggi oats masala noodles without its approval.
The private labs are Robust Materials Technology Ltd and TUV SUD labs, accredited to the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL).