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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Doubts over MSG and Lead Content in Maggi Instant Noodles

Verdict :

Possible time of origin : May 16, 2015

Circulation platforms : Web, Facebook, Whatsapp

Circulation geography : India

Original Message Version Under Analysis:
The 2-minute noodles 'Maggi' has come under regulatory scanner after samples collected in some parts of Uttar Pradesh were found containing added monosodium glutamate (MSG) and lead in excess of the permissible limit, official sources said.

The Lucknow Food Safety and Drug Administration has initiated inquiry and written 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 quality, officials said.

"We have tested Maggi samples at Kolkata's referral laboratory. The test results show that there are added monosodium glutamate and excess of lead. We have ordered further sampling," FSDA Assistant Commissioner Vijay Bahadur Yadav told TOI.
Adapted from Times of India report appeared on 16.05.2015

Analysis by Merofact Awareness Team:


This 16th May Times of India broke a sensational news with headline "‘Maggi’ under regulatory scanner for lead, MSG beyond permissible limit". Maggi is an international brand owned by Nestl√©, since 1947. The original company founded much early (1872 AD) in Switzerland by Julius Maggi. Nestl√© India Ltd. introduced Maggi brand in India with instant 2 minutes noodles. This created a entirely new food category and grew in popularity. Very quickly, in India Maggi became synonymous with instant noodles. With such popularity India, this news took over the social media faster than fire. Certainly people are worried, but do we really need to?
Reputation of Maggi is now under threat with two counts; 1. Excess MSG and 2. Lead contamination beyond permissible limit. TOI quoted FSDA Assistant Commissioner Vijay Bahadur Yadav saying, their test results showed Maggi contain 17 parts per million (17 ppm) lead, whereas the permissible limit is 0.01 ppm. For the time being, Nestle countered the claim saying their own records show lead content is negligible and less than 1 % of the permissible limit. Nestle, also mentioned that they does not add monosodium glutamate to the product in question, and presence of excess lead is "surprising" even for the company. Below we're quoting Nestle spokesperson as appeared on TOI report "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 said. 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." 
Maggi 2 minute noodles bears the licence of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), New Delhi. The Maggi 2 minute noodles packaging in India shows the FSSAI Licence Number 10012011000168, and claims no added MSG (Mono sodium glutamate). We still don't know it is the noodles or the proprietary TASTEMAKER, that found to be high in Lead and MSG. When TOI contacted FSSAI, a senior official there said "Enforcement of the Act lies with state government and they must keep a stringent check. Once we receive communication from the state, we will certainly examine and take immediate cognizance,". So, we've to wait till we get a detailed report on the product in question and the FSSAI verdict on the issue. Till then we shouldn't panic but reasonably avoid the product. 
Now let's engage into the discussion on the harm Maggi possibly have caused among consumers. 
Lead is a highly toxic heavy metal. Lead can interfere with a variety of body processes including with the development of the nervous system. Therefore lead cause damage to many organs and tissues, specially in children. In this case we should be more aware of chronic lead poisoning, which usually turns up to show various symptoms affecting multiple systems/organs. We believe even 17 ppm lead in noodles won't suffice to cause an acute lead poisoning. We don't want to scare you with more scientific details about lead poisoning, which is undoubtedly very very bad. You may have a look at the well written wikipedia entry here.
On the other hand, there is hardly some scientifically plausible reason to be afraid of MSG, abbreviation for mono sodium glutamate. Glutamate or glutamic acid is an abundant non-essential amino acid in our own body, and most (if not all) standard sized proteins have it. MSG is just the sodium salt of this glutamic acid. Sodium is a part of the common salt we use everyday in every not-sweet food. Till 1909 we knew that there are four taste qualities (sweet, bitter, salty and sour) upon which the human sense of taste is based. At that time Japanese scientists found that glutamate arouses another taste sensation, which they named Umami. US Food and drug Administration (FDA) considers the addition of MSG to foods to be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS). Although many people identify themselves as sensitive to MSG, in studies with such individuals given MSG or a placebo, scientists have not been able to consistently trigger reactions. MSG naturally occurs in many regular foods, such as tomatoes, potatoes, mushrooms and cheeses. People around the world, specially Asians have eaten glutamate-rich foods throughout history. That's why glutamate was first isolated as taste substance by Japanese biochemist Kikunae Ikeda, who tried to isolate and duplicate the savory taste of  Kombu, an edible seaweed often used as a base for Japanese soups.  Hydrolyzed proteins likely contain MSG and the Maggi TASTEMAKER contains hydrolyzed groundnut protein, so we can assume that could be the source of MSG found in the tests. But we would hardly be worried about MSG, rather welcome that as taste and flavor enhancer.
So now, we're eagerly waiting for the independent test result for the lead content, which will be the deciding factor whether we try Maggi ever again!

Updated May 21, 2015
After our post, a series of report surfaced claiming that 'Food inspectors ordered for recall of a batch of Maggi noodles from March 2014.' Surprisingly most of the reports including foreign media mentioned FDA behind the recall order. The acronym used un/intentionally poses as the well known of Food and Drug Administration, USA. If one sees the reports little more carefully, they will find the used acronym FDA actually stands for "Food Safety and Drug Administration, Lucknow", which most of us knew as FSDA, Lucknow! Anyway, 'Times of India' separated themselves from the misguiding news media trying to leverage on the TOI scoop appeared at 07:27 PM IST May 20, 2015. TOI investigative reporters took  U turn within about 2 hours after they used some common sense to talk to the proper authority, here the FSSAI. Latest (09:24 PM IST May 20, 2015) TOI report on this issue quoted a senior FSSAI official saying "We have not yet ordered any recall. We are waiting to see the report from UP and may order countrywide sampling after that,". TOI also contacted Nestle, who too confirmed that the company has not received any communication from the regulator seeking countrywide recall.
So, the bottom line is, read the news reports critically (as they are becoming less and less responsible day by day) and don't panic, rather wait for the FSSAI report. The Maggi noodles batch manufactured during March 2014 is least likely to be still circulating in the market after more than a year. As soon as we get to know the supposedly contaminated batch number and manufacturing unit id, we'll let you know. These information you can check on any Maggi noodles packet. So, if you really cannot resist the Maggi temptation, at least avoid any packet manufactured during March, 2014. 

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