High Court lifts ban on Maggi conditionally, orders fresh tests

Thursday, 13 August,Mumbai : The Bombay High Court on Thursday lifted the nationwide ban imposed by Indian food regulators on Maggi noodles, providing a conditional relief to the popular snack’s manufacturer Nestle India Pvt Ltd as it ordered a fresh test of samples in three independent laboratories across India.

It said that if the fresh tests show that lead content was below permissible limit, then the company will be allowed to manufacture and sell Maggi again in the country.

A division bench comprising justices V M Kanade and B P Colabawalla also set aside the June 5 order of the central government’s Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and also quashed the order of Maharashtra’s Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) banning production and sale of Maggi noodles in India and the state, respectively.

Both the food regulators had in the impugned orders alleged that lead content in Maggi noodles was beyond the permissible limit and asked the company to refrain from selling all nine variants of its product as it may cause harm to public health.

Accordingly, Nestle India, the Indian unit of the Swiss company, had destroyed several thousands Maggi noodles packets by burning them, though the high court had permitted export of this product despite a ban on its sale in India.

The judges, however, ruled that principles of natural justice had not been followed in this case as the company had not been given a hearing on the issue.

The high court was also of the opinion that the labs in which Maggi noodles samples were tested were not affiliated to the National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL).

The judges ordered Nestle India to send five samples of each variant to three accredited labs in Punjab, Hyderabad and Jaipur and asked these labs to give their reports within six weeks. The samples would be drawn from 750 crates of samples lying with the company.

The judges refused to grant stay on their order on a plea made by food regulators. They said the company had given an undertaking that it would not manufacture or sell Maggi noodles till the results of the three labs were received.

“The fresh tests would also take some time. Hence, there was no need to grant a stay on the order,” they said.

On a plea made by food regulators that the petition filed by Maggi was not maintainable, the high court said it had the jurisdiction to hear the matter under powers derived by it under the Article 226 of the Constitution.

The bench observed that it was ordering a fresh test of Maggi food snack only in public interest.