We’ve talked about why it won’t be wrong to call Maggi India’s national food. But, in Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, the state government’s Food Safety & Drug Administration, is seeking a cancellation of Maggi’s license.
Why? According to UP FDA’s findings, Maggi contains excessive lead and MSG. Here are the most important facts about the controversy.
What’s the fuss?
On May 16, 2015, the Lucknow Food Safety and Drug Administration initiated an inquiry and wrote to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) in New Delhi seeking to cancel the licence for Maggi.
The state regulator has also asked FSSAI to order sampling of the product from across the country to check its quality.
Officials tested Maggi samples at Kolkata’s referral laboratory and the test results showed excess of lead and excess amounts of monosodium glutamate (MSG) than the permissible limit.
What is MSG? Why is it added to food products? Is it harmful?
MSG, or monosodium glutamate is a type of amino-acid found naturally in many agricultural products. It is often added artificially to packaged food to enhance flavour.
Native to China, there have been reports of adverse effects of consuming MSG including nausea, upset digestive system, headaches, etc. Symptoms of MSG are collectively called Chinese Restaurant Syndrome (CRS).
While MSG is said to be harmful for health, there has been no conclusive proof regarding the adverse effects of MSG.
Food safety regulations in India, however, require companies to mention the amount of MSG added on the packaging.
In US and Europe also, MSG is considered as a food additive with quantitative limits. In Australia and New Zealand, use of MSG has little to no restrictions. A report by Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ) states:
“There is no convincing evidence that MSG is a significant factor in causing systemic reactions resulting in severe illness or mortality. The studies conducted to date on Chinese Restaurant Syndrome (CRS) have largely failed to demonstrate a causal association with MSG. Symptoms resembling those of CRS may be provoked in a clinical setting in small numbers of individuals by the administration of large doses of MSG without food. However, such effects are neither persistent nor serious and are likely to be attenuated when MSG is consumed with food. In terms of more serious adverse effects such as the triggering of bronchospasm in asthmatic individuals, the evidence does not indicate that MSG is a significant trigger factor.”
Does Maggi have lead too?
The test results showed that the samples of Maggi they tested contained 17 parts per million lead, whereas the permissible limit is 0.01ppm. Exposure to more than permissible amounts of lead can affect several functions of the body including the central nervous system, kidneys, and the immune system. The effects are worse for children and lead can affect cognitive functions of a child.
What does Nestle have to say about this?
“We do not add MSG to Maggi Noodles and glutamate, if present, may come from naturally occurring sources. Food regulators in India also do not specify any limit for the presence of MSG/Glutamate,” a Nestle spokesperson told Times of India.
Referring to the excessive lead found, he said, “We are surprised with the lead content supposedly found in the sample. We monitor the lead content regularly as part of regulatory requirements, and tests at our own accredited laboratories as well as those by independent external accredited laboratories have consistently shown the results to be well within the permissible limit.”
So, should I stop eating Maggi?
It remains to be seen how FSSAI responds to UP FDA’s request to ban Maggi. It is unlikely that Maggi will be banned and even if it is, there will be several rounds of legal cases till a final decision is taken.
MSG in large quantities and lead are harmful for your health, but at the same time there shouldn’t be a lot of harm in giving yourself a treat when you crave for your favourite 2-minutes noodles “once in a while”. Maggi isn’t something you should have every week, let alone every day.
And there is always the fundamental rule when it comes to food: anything in excess is never good.