Explainer: If Maggi says it has no MSG and less lead, why is FSDA alarmed?
news Wednesday, May 20, 2015 - 05:30
Every packet of Nestle’s Maggi Noodles says, “No added MSG”. Yet the Food Safety And Drug Administration (FSDA) in Lucknow says that it has found Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), and the metal lead, beyond permissible limits in the samples it tested. The FSDA also states that the amount of lead in it is beyond permissible limit. Nestle denies that too. Nestle denies there is MSG in Maggi Noodles How can this be possible? Here is what we think is happening. First, what is MSG? MSG is a flavour enhancer that is added to food products to bring out the savoury taste. The "glutamate" part of MSG is the key element. In several countries including India, there are strict controls over its permissible limits. Maggi Noodles has no MSG in it as such. Food Safety and Standards Authority of India in its regulation says MSG cannot be used in pasta or noodles. But if you look closely at your pack of Maggi Noodles, and you will find in the list of ingredients, “Hydrolysed groundnut protein”. Hydrolysed Groundnut Protein in Maggi Noodles Hydrolysed protein contains free glutamates in it, and it is known to be the same type as in MSG. Now since there is no 'added MSG', but there is hydrolysed protein which contains glutamates, Nestle could get away with saying “No added MSG”, and at the same time FSDA could have found traces of glutamates in the Maggi. It’s not just hydrolysed proteins. Other flavour enhancers, like E635 which is present in Maggi Noodles, are also added to compliment food with existing glutamates. These other enhancers create the same flavour as that of MSG when combined with glutamates. The FSDA lab results also showed an excess of the metal lead present in Maggi Noodles. A report by NDTV states that the lab results showed that Maggi Noodles contains 17 parts per million (PPM) of lead, whereas the permissible limit of lead in food in India is a mere 0.5 ppm. Nestle has denied these claims, and says that they continuously monitor levels of lead. If Nestle is right, then where is the lead coming from? One possible answer to the mystery could lie in the packaging material used. A report by the New York State Department of Health states that lead can be present in wrappers and drinking water. Possibly, the wrappers used for packaging noodles have high lead content. The US Food and Drug Association have set an action level of 0.5 ppm for lead in products intended for use by infants and children. In fact, the European Food Safety Authority states that dietary exposure for average adult consumer in 19 European countries ranged from 0.36 to 1.24 ppm per day. An excess in the exposure of lead can lead to many health hazards which include neurological effects like seizures and fatigue, gastrointestinal effects like nausea and constipation and can increase reproductive problems like stillbirth and reduction in sperm count.