Why must kids have Maggi with lead: Supreme Court


The Supreme Courton Thursday revived the Centre’s Rs 640-crore class action suit, lying dormant for over three years in the national consumer forum, against Nestle India for allegedly selling lead-laced Maggi, asking “why should children have Maggi noodles with lead?”

The Food Safety Standards and Safety Authority of India (FSSAI) had banned the sale of Maggi in June 2015 alleging it contained harmful monosodium glutamate (MSG) and excess lead. Nestle moved the SC after the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) entertained the Centre’s class action suit and ordered fresh lab tests.

The SC then, on January 13, 2016, asked the Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI) in Mysuru to test Maggi samples afresh for MSG and lead content. The report was submitted to the SC on April 6, 2016.

With the proceedings before NCDRC lying dormant since December 2015, a bench of Justices D Y Chandrachud and Hemant Gupta told Nestle counsel A M Singhvi that with CFTRI submitting the report, the process involved in adjudicating the class action suit has been completed and the national consumer forum should get on with adjudication of claims and counter-claims.

Singhvi said the matter should be given a quietus as the report has found lead content in Maggi to be within permissible limits. Moreover, Nestle has ceased to write on Maggi packets that it has “no added monosodium glutamate”, he said. But additional solicitor general Vikramjit Banerjee said the report should be sent to NCRDC, which can decide the matter on merit.

Justice Chandrachud said: “Why should Maggi noodles have led at all? I would be averse to eat Maggi with lead in it. Why should children eat Maggi with lead?” Though the judge was making the comments in a lighter vein as a repartee to Singhvi’s assertions, it assumed significance as Justice Chandrachud went on to say that MSG is harmful.

On Singhvi’s plea that the matter has become redundant, the bench said it would not be appropriate for the SC to usurp the jurisdiction of NCRDC where the class action suit is pending. The bench sent the CFTRI report to NCDRC and said Nestle and the Centre can make every contention they desire before the apex consumer forum.

Nestle said, “During the hearing, we pointed out to the court that reports show lead below detectable limits in some samples and only minuscule quantities of lead in others. The Hon’ble justices wanted to know as to why they should eat noodles if there is any lead. It was explained that the lead is present everywhere and therefore post proper scientific evaluation, a limit of 2.5 PPM is fixed as a permissible limit. It was clarified that Nestle does not add any lead to the product and minuscule quantities can come from purely external sources like air, water, grains etc. It was again pointed out that the CFTRI results clearly show that in some of the samples the presence of lead has been found as traces and far below the permissible limit.”