Bombay High Court lifts ban on Maggi, orders fresh tests
Mumbai, Aug 13 (IANS) Nestle India got a significant respite on Thursday with the Bombay High Court lifting the ban on the sale of its Maggi instant noodles and ordering fresh tests in three separate labs to ascertain that the product complied with the country’s food safety norms.
The conditional relief came following a petition filed by Nestle challenging the regulatory order of June 5 for the withdrawal and recall of nine variants of “Maggi Instant Noodles” and “Maggi Oats Masala Noodles with Tastemaker”.
A division bench of Justice V.M. Kanade and Justice B.P. Colabawalla, while ruling that the principles of natural justice were not followed, also directed fresh tests to be conducted on all major Maggi samples by three separate laboratories within the next six weeks, before it can return to the markets.
“We have examined the evidence in great detail. Since the petitioner Nestle has already agreed not to make and sell Maggi until the food authorities are satisfied, we see no reason to allow any relief to food authorities,” Justice Kanade said.
The court directed that five samples of each Maggi noodles variant sent private labs in Punjab, Jaipur and Hyderabad which are recognized by the National Accreditation Board for Testing & Calibration Laboratories.
These samples would be taken from the 750-odd preserved by Nestle after the ban, while a large stock of its products was destroyed by the company after the ban was implemented.
The court specified that only if the lead content was found to be within permissible limits could the company resume its manufacture and sale.
Immediately after the judgement, the stocks of Nestle India surged to the day’s high of Rs.6,545, and eventually closed at Rs.6,356.70, with a gain of Rs.172 or 2.78 percent.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the industry watchdog, had said in its order that tests conducted on a batch of Maggi were found to contain more-than-permissible levels of lead and high quantities of mono-sodium glutamate (MSG).
Refusing also to stay its own order observing that manufacturing and fresh testing would take time, the bench said the FSSAI ban was imposed without following the due principles of natural justice. It also said the tests were conducted in unauthorised labs.
The court further said that the company itself had stated it would not manufacture and sell Maggi till it secured a clean chit from labs accredited with the food safety regulator.
Nestle was also directed to provide five samples from each Maggi batch for testing by the three labs.
Welcoming the judgement, Nestle India said said in a statement that it would comply with the order for conducting fresh tests on samples and expressed its commitment to working with FSSAI, the Maharashtra FDA and other stakeholders.