news Wednesday, July 15, 2015 - 05:30
More than a month after the Maggi controversy, the body that called for a ban on the packet of instant noodles has found itself in a soup, but is still going after food-processing giant Nestle. And even though the war on TV-screens has subsided and Maggi has bid goodbye to these shores, doubts have been raised on how the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) goes about clearing packaged products. Why has the FSSAI come under fire and by who all? Only as far back as last month, FSSAI dealt a major blow to the Indian psyche when the popular instant-two-minute-noodle brand was labelled “unsafe and hazardous” for consumption. Tests had found excessive MSG and lead in Maggi packets and several states had backed the ban. Since then FSSAI has been subjected to quite a bit of scrutiny, with punches being landed on it by the government, industry bodies, and from a former employee. On Monday, a report in The Economic Times had food processing minister Harsimrat Kaur Badal falling just short of laying blame at the body. Badal said that the FSSAI’s “inspector raj” has scared off investors and the “Make in India” initiative would suffer as a result. “In the current environment, no one can say how long it will take to get approval, so these projects were not coming to India,” she said. Badal alleged that the red-tape involved in dealing with the FSSAI was scaring off investors. After the food-processing-minister fired the first salvos, the All India Food Processors' Association (AIFPA) sent a letter to Badal on Tuesday, voicing their concerns, and echoing Badal’s. “The Maggi fiasco and the arbitrary process of food approval have instilled fear in the food industry, especially small and medium enterprises... Due to the behaviour of the enforcing authority in states, some of the members of the association have abandoned expansion plans. Some have even opted to quit the food industry,” AIFPA President Amit Dhanuka told the newspaper.   The body, which has Britannia and Coca-Cola as members, has also raised concerns over the lack of qualification and experience of the FSSAI officers. Aside from the allegations of the body being anti-industry, claims of corruption and incompetence have now started to surface. A PIL filed in the Delhi HC by former Director of Product Approval at the FSSAI Pradip Chakraborty may have opened up another can of worms. In his petition, Chakraborty alleges “possible acts of corruption and embezzlement of funds” within the body. Interestingly, Chakraborty was the man who gave the noodle-brand approval back in 2013, when the brand was under fire. In July the same year, he was removed from his office and in February this year, he was reportedly shunted out of the body itself. Industry body ASSOCHAM has been publicly backing the product too, and an advertisement had found its way into the newspapers close to a week ago. Titled “The Truth About MSG”, the ad mentions that glutamate is a naturally occurring substance in several foods. It goes on to explain what MSG is and that it is permitted under Indian law. “Presence of glutamate in food products is usually interpreted as MSG,” it explains, saying that the presence of glutamate is misinterpreted as MSG. Has the FSSAI hit back? Yes. The body is still going after Nestle and Maggi. The body has said that Nestle is “destroying evidence” instead of calling back the batches of noodles. The food regulating authority has sought for a recall of the court’s order last month which allowed Nestle to export the noodles. “They are still burning the products for which they have permission to export. They are destroying evidence. They were not asked to burn the products, they were asked to recall them,” said FSSAI counsel Mehmood Pracha to the HC. The body has also alleged that Nestle was not helping out with the investigation. Here is a video of what is happening to the Maggi packets: Video of eevsn_hBW0Q