Indian food inspectors have ordered Nestlé India to recall a batch of Maggi noodles from shops across the country, saying the product contained dangerous levels of lead.
The Food Safety and Drug Administration (FDA) in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh said high lead content was found during routine tests on two dozen packets of instant noodles, manufactured by Nestlé in India
Seven times the lead limit
Two FDA officials said all the packets of instant noodles tested in the state-run laboratory were contaminated. They found a lead concentration of 17.2 parts per million (ppm), nearly seven times the permissible limit. The FDA officials said the acceptable limit of lead ranges between 0.01 ppm and 2.5 ppm.
The scientists also found high levels of added monosodium glutamate (MSG), a taste enhancer, in the noodles.
"Maggi instant noodles contained dangerous amount of lead and MSG. We had to immediately issue orders against the company," D.G. Srivastava, deputy inspector general of the FDA in Lucknow, capital of Uttar Pradesh, told Reuters.
Nestlé India, a subsidiary of Swiss-based Nestlé SA, said it had strict safety and quality controls in place for all raw materials used to make Maggi noodles.
Nestlé is surprised by the tests
"We do not add MSG to Maggi Noodles, and glutamate, if present, may come from naturally occurring sources. We are surprised with the content supposedly found in the sample as we monitor the lead content regularly as a part of the regulatory requirements," it said.
A company spokesperson confirmed Uttar Pradesh had ordered it to withdraw the batch dating back to March 2014, but added the items concerned had either already been consumed or were beyond the sell-by date, making the recall difficult.
Srivastava said his team collected more than two dozen packs of instant noodles from stores across the state and tested each pack separately before making the findings public.
"Our experts conducted several tests and each time the results were shocking," he told Reuters, adding they had approached federal food inspectors in New Delhi to launch a wider investigation of the noodles.