Several other Indian states also have sent Maggi samples for testing. Retailers took the noodles off their shelves, and the Indian army ordered its cafeteria to stop serving Maggi. Television news stations showed images of children throwing the noodles on the ground and stomping on them in protest.
Delhi’s health minister, Satyender Kumar Jain, said Wednesday that the government will file a lawsuit against Nestle India, alleging it violated local food laws.
Last month, the government in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh asked Nestle India to recall a batch of Maggi noodles after it found large amounts of harmful ingredients in packets manufactured in February 2014.
Nestle said on its Web site that it has tested samples from almost 1,000 batches at its laboratory and that the results show that the lead levels were “within the limits specified by food regulations.”
Such outrage over food products is uncommon in India, where public expectations of strict food safety norms are low. News about sickness and death caused by food poisoning from wedding feasts and school lunch programs is routine here. People nonchalantly flock roadside eateries located next to garbage dumps and serve food exposed to flies and cooked by men who don’t wear gloves. India lacks a strong consumer protection law and a mechanism for food recall.
So why is there so much anger over lead and monosodium glutamate in India’s favorite middle-class snack?
Some analysts say it could be because the brand came to symbolize a middle-class defiance against hours of laborious Indian cooking traditions, as well as a modern woman’s freedom.
In recent years, the Maggi noodle campaigns actually showcased mother-daughter traditions, a sense of freedom and even good health.
The English news channel NDTV 24x7 called it a “betrayal of trust and nostalgia.”
“Maggi betrayal has broken our good Indian heart,” said a headline in the news portal Firstpost.
“Maggi was more than just a packet of instant noodles. In a socialist India where Coca Cola was forbidden and we wore rip-off Levis jeans, Maggi in 1983 felt almost like cosmopolitanism in a packet. It was bright, it was perky, it was fast. It broke the rules of cooking. It was not labor intensive. Nothing needed to be chopped, ground or grated. It carried a whiff of independence.”
The anger against Maggi also coincides with growing rates of obesity in Indian cities and an assertive middle class’s increasing concerns about healthy lifestyles, air pollution and traditional foods dipped in oil.
Meanwhile, there was some admonishing of Bollywood stars who have been appearing in Maggi commercials for years.