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  • Niteen Hatle

I Love Maggi.


Maggi is the name of instant noodles brand sold by Nestle. The instant noodles became famous in India during the 1980s due to aggressive advertising and marketing campaign run by the company. The 2-minute noodles penetrated significant number of households in the country. Children loved it and parents were eager to buy it for them, as the small pack was dirt cheap. Nestle went on to have a complete monopoly in the product segment. Well, it was the only instant noodles brand in the country.

Opening up of the Indian economy post 1991 saw Chinese restaurants, large and small, and tiny food stalls, crop up in every nook and corner of major cities. Chinese food seemed to have hit the right taste buds in the country. Families went out to Chinese restaurants for dinner/lunch instead of the traditional Punjabi restaurants. Maggi too rode the wave of globalisation. No doubt it also brought other brands of instant noodles in the market. But Maggi dominated the segment for the next three decades.

However, the past 10 years have been quite challenging for Maggi and for Nestle. There were allegations that Maggi noodles contained lead and MSG in amounts higher than permissible levels. The company completely denied these allegations and at the same time withdrew some batches of Maggi noodles from the market, sustaining loses in crores. Excess lead can harm the body, from the skin to the central nervous system. And MSG is believed to cause headaches, sweating, nausea, and also brain cancer.

The question that’s troubling me amid all this controversy over Maggi is: would an MNC like Nestle consciously and deliberately increase the amount of lead and MSG in Maggi noodles? I have been having Maggi (masala) for the past 30 years. I have it on a regular basis (twice a week). And sometimes for lunch/dinner as well. Honestly, the noodles have never caused me an upset stomach, even when I had three small packs for dinner. So, I am not surprised the company denied these allegations. However, the company must have unearthed some manufacturing lapses or contamination in ingredients supplied by third parties. Hence, it withdrew those lots from the market.

Anything in excess is bad for health. How much is too much for the body to handle and the bodily processes to go haywire is determined by a branch of science called toxicology. It studies the adverse effects of chemicals on living organisms. Toxicology testing involves determining the level of these toxic chemicals or substances in the body. It is employed in the food industry to detect the level of toxic substances in finished products including food additives. Toxicology testing is also used in other industries such as pesticides, medications, and cosmetics.

MSG or monosodium glutamate is used as a food additive to enhance the flavor of food items. Toxicology tests have indicated that MSG is harmless for consumption and affects only people who are highly sensitive to it. There have been studies that claim MSG causes diseases such as brain cancer when taken in large amounts on a regular basis. However, the official position of food regulators across the world is that it is harmless for human consumption. Apparently, there is kind of ambiguity on MSG and more research is required to have a clearer picture. And lead, well, it is naturally present in the air, soil, and dust. Unlike MSG, excess amount of lead in the body has been proven to cause fatal disorders and diseases. The only reason for the presence of excess lead in Maggi noodles could be contamination of ingredients supplied by third parties. I’m sure Nestle has got to the bottom of this issue, as Maggi has been relaunched in India.

Regardless of whether Maggi contained lead and MSG in amounts over the permissible levels, I have not stopped consuming these noodles. First, because I love Maggi and can’t get enough of it. Second and most importantly, I truly believe ‘ignorance is bliss’.

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