The Indian government is suing food giant Nestle for $100 million over “unfair trade practices”, the BBC reports.
The complaint against Nestle is that it caused damage to consumers through misleading advertisements related to its Maggi noodles product.
Maggi noodles were banned in India after the food safety regulator accused Nestle of not complying with food safety laws.
The company has challenged this at the Bombay high court, saying its products are safe.
However, Nestle, which has 80% of India’s instant noodles market, has already destroyed 400 million tonnes of Maggi products.
The claim, made on behalf of Indian consumers, was not filed through the courts but with the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), which has semi-judicial powers.
A Nestle spokesman in Delhi told the Reuters news agency that the company would only be able to “provide substantive response” after it received an official notice about the complaint filed to the NCDRC.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had earlier said that tests deemed the instant noodles to contain “unsafe and hazardous” amounts of lead.
Nestle says that its noodles are safe as seen in the results of tests conducted in other countries, including the US, the UK and Singapore.
Two Indian laboratories in the western state of Goa and the southern city of Mysore also recently cleared the noodles, but the findings were dismissed by India’s food safety authority, saying there were lapses in the tests.
The Bombay high court verdict on the case is expected soon. It has reserved its order, but has suggested that samples of Maggi noodles be re-tested. Nestle has agreed, but the safety regulator has responded negatively.
“There is no provision for such a testing according to the law, we will not follow a different procedure because of Nestle,” the lawyer for the regulator told the Indian Express newspaper.
The news of legal action has caused a stir on Indian social media. The tag “Rs 634” – a reference to the amount of the damages the government is seeking (634 crore rupees which is 6.34 billion rupees) – has begun trending on Twitter.
Most have asked whether the large amount of compensation that has been sought on behalf of the consumers would be redistributed to everyone who ever ate Maggi.
More than $50 million worth of Nestle’s hugely popular Maggi noodles will be destroyed, following a ban imposed by India’s food safety regulator.
India’s food safety regulator says tests have found the instant noodles “unsafe and hazardous” and has accused Nestle of failing to comply with food safety laws.
Nestle insists that the noodles are safe and is challenging the ban.
The company has 80% of India’s instant noodles market.
Nestle said in a statement that value of withdrawn noodles include stocks taken off the shelves and stocks stored in factories and with distributors.
The company said: “There will be additional costs to take into account, for example bringing stock from the market, transporting the stock to the destruction points, destruction cost etc. The final figure will have to be confirmed at a later date.”
Earlier this month, Nestle began withdrawing the Maggi brand from stores, after regulators said they found higher-than-allowed levels of lead in some packets.
The company is challenging the ban in the high court in the city of Mumbai and “raised issues of interpretation” of India’s food safety laws.
Nestle CEO Paul Bulcke has asked to see the results of the laboratory tests and promised to return Maggi to store shelves soon.
Several states have also been testing the noodles for the chemical monosodium glutamate, widely known as MSG.
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