LUCKNOW, India (Reuters) - Food safety inspectors in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh said they had filed a criminal complaint against Nestle’s local arm (NEST.NS) after saying they had found high levels of lead in some packets of Maggi instant noodles
Nestle India, which disputes the findings, has said the batch in question was manufactured in February 2014 so was already past its sell-by date in April this year and would have been automatically collected from retailers by the time the inspectors announced a recall of the products.
A spokesman for Nestle India, which has said it has carried out extensive independent and internal tests, said the company has not yet been notified of the complaint.
The noodles, which sell at roughly a dozen rupees ($0.20) per single-serving packet, are a hugely popular snack in India and Maggi has long been market leader.
The action was filed at a local court in the city of Barabanki, about 30 kilometers east of the capital Lucknow, and a hearing has been set for July 1, an official at the local Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said.
The Uttar Pradesh FDA had ordered a recall of a 200,000-pack batch of noodles at the end of April, after a spot check which it said showed elevated levels of monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavour enhancer, and lead 17 times above the permissible limit.
Nestle India, whose parent is Swiss-based foods group Nestle SA NESN.VX, said it had shared with the authorities test results that conclude its noodles are safe to eat.
“We regularly monitor all our raw material for lead, including testing by accredited laboratories which have consistently shown levels in Maggi noodles to be within permissible limits,” Nestle said in a statement.
The FDA official confirmed on Monday that as well as Nestle India the complaint included the manufacturing unit, the retailer selling the tainted packs, two Nestle managers and even Bollywood stars who promoted the two-minute snack.
Writing by Clara Ferreira Marques; Editing by David Holmes