Mumbai: Nestle India Ltd on Thursday filed a case in the Bombay high court for a review of orders passed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in Maharashtra and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) banning the sale, production and distribution of Maggi noodles.

The company has also raised issues of interpretation of the Food Safety and Standards Act 2011. The hearing is on Friday.

Meanwhile, the US Food and Drug Administration is also testing samples of India-made Maggi noodles, Reuters reported on Thursday.

Nestle does not import, market or distribute Maggi noodles in the US, but the popular instant noodles is available in the market through third-party importers, a Nestle spokeswoman told Reuters. “We have been made aware that the (US) FDA has taken samples of Maggi noodles manufactured in India from third-party importers’ containers for testing, and we have asked the importers to advise us of the outcome of the (US) FDA tests," the Nestle spokeswoman said in an emailed statement to Reuters.

On 5 June, FSSAI asked Nestle India to “stop further production, processing, import, distribution and sale" of all nine variants of Maggi with immediate effect as they had been found unsafe for human consumption.

According to FSSAI, the three major violations are the presence of lead in the product in excess of the maximum permissible levels of 2.5 parts per million (ppm); misleading labelling information on the package reading ‘No added MSG’ (monosodium glutamate); and release of a non-standardized food product in the market, Maggi Oats Masala Noodles with Tastemaker, without risk assessment and grant of product approval.

Following reports of high content of lead in Maggi and mislabelling of the product which tested positive for MSG, FDA Maharashtra conducted its own tests and banned the sale of Maggi in the state on 6 June.

Nestle India has approached the Bombay high court as part of the effort to resolve the issue, the company said in a statement to the BSE, and added that it will continue the withdrawal of Maggi noodles products. “This action will not interfere with the process," the statement said.

Further steps will be taken as per orders that may be passed by the Bombay high court, the company said.

The controversy surfaced in April when the Uttar Pradesh Food Safety and Drug Administration said, after conducting tests, that Nestle’s Maggi noodles contained lead beyond permissible limits and MSG. The government has also dragged Nestle to the consumer court for “unfair trade practices and misleading advertisements".

Meanwhile, on Monday, Singapore cleared sales of Maggi noodles imported from India after its own tests.

Nestle India, which is recalling around 25,000 tonnes of Maggi noodles, adding up to 200-300 million packets, has asked its 4,000 distributors and sub-stockists to send back all Maggi noodles packets within 15 days, from the day of the FSSAI order on 5 June, according to the Confederation of All India Traders. However, the Swiss food company may need more time to withdraw all Maggi noodles from the market.

The company has started the process of recall and it could take several weeks, said a Nestle India spokesperson. “This is an extremely huge undertaking that involves collecting crores of packs from the distribution network across the country in the urban as well as the rural markets. Many of the retail outlets may not even be directly serviced by us. This requires meticulous planning and coordination of mammoth proportions, especially for Maggi noodles which is so popular and widely sold... We are taking this complex exercise with all seriousness and are trying to complete it as efficiently as feasible," added the spokesperson.

Nestle India reaches about 4.5 million retail outlets through its distribution network, of which it gets to only a million stores directly. Apart from these, there are at least a few million stores in rural areas that are not connected to the distribution network but stock Maggi noodles.

On Wednesday night, Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL) said it has stopped the manufacture and sale of the Chinese range of its Knorr instant noodles, as its application for product approval for this range of products remains pending with FSSAI. HUL had submitted the application in February.

“We have started the process of withdrawal and will complete the same at the earliest. The consumer can return the unopened & sealed pack to retailer who will return the money," a HUL spokesperson said in an e-mailed response.

Shares of Nestle India closed 1.87% higher on Thursday than their previous close at 6,170.05 a piece, while HUL shares last traded 0.30% down at 817.80 apiece on Thursday on BSE. Between 21 May and 8 June, Nestle India’s stock lost 20.29%, from 6,950.30 to 5,539.80. The shares started gaining on 9 June.

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