Nestle is to pull its Maggi instant noodles from stores across in India, where several states have banned the popular snack after damaging headlines triggered by reports that some packs contained excess lead. Hayley Platt reports.
Families in northern India protest over the safety of one of country's favourite snacks. Food Safety Inspectors in several regions are warning Maggi noodles may contain excess levels of lead and monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavour enhancer used in some foods. (SOUNDBITE) (Hindi) A VILLAGER, VIJAY TOMAR, SAYING: "We have decided to boycott Maggi noodles because there are harmful chemicals in it." Nestle India, who make the noodles, maintain they are safe. But have decided to pull the product anyway after being criticised for not acting quickly enough. Nestle's CEO Paul Bulcke issued a statement to reassure consumers. In what's the biggest packaged food scandal to hit India since 2006, the country's Health Minister is calling for all nine Maggi products to be recalled from the market. (SOUNDBITE) (English) INDIA'S HEALTH MINISTER, J.P. NADDA, SAYING: "We have come to the conclusion that the food safety standards have not been adhered by Nestle company and Maggi products." Local retailers are beginning to feeling the pain. (SOUNDBITE) (Tamil) A RETAIL SHOP OWNER, RAJINI, SAYING: "The sale of Maggi noodles and other Nestle products was going well. But now, I'm not selling as much of the product so I am not sure if business is going to pick up again." Earlier in the year food safety inspectors carried out spot checks in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh. They recalled 200,000 packs after finding levels of lead at seven times the legal limit, and excessive amounts of MSG. Many retailers, including Future Group, the country's biggest have stopped selling the brand. And other brands of noodles are also being banned. Nestle though insists it does not add MSG to its noodles. And it's conducted its own tests on 125 million packets of Maggi. Sales of the noodles in India account for just 0.005 percent of Nestle's $98 billion total revenue. But the bill for brand damage could be sizeable.