Nestlé was issued five notices by the Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and even told that it could get tests on Maggi noodles done at a referral laboratory, but the company chose not to do so, a lawyer for the Maharashtra FDA argued.

Nestlé is challenging the ban on Maggi noodles in the state in the Bombay high court. The Maharashtra FDA, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the watchdog’s CEO are respondents.

In its arguments earlier this month, Nestle India Ltd argued that the procedures for banning a product were not followed. The Indian arm of Swiss multinational Nestle SA had questioned the Indian food authorities’ methods of testing and had said that it had 2,700 reports of tests that it had done in laboratories around the world and in India, which found the product safe.

“It is one of the most significant silences in this matter that Nestlé, with all the vociferous data and its 2,700 reports from all over the world, has never exercised this right. It’s one of the most telling signs in this matter," argued Darius Khambata, who appeared for the Maharashtra FDA.

Nestle India did not follow the law of the land and did not request the state and government food regulators to conduct the tests at an accredited food laboratory even though the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, has provisions for the company to do so, argued Khambata.

The Act allows companies to request for a test at an accredited laboratory if they are not satisfied with the food lab results provided by the food authority. And if there is a variance in these reports, then the opinion of a referral food laboratory can be taken, Khambata said.

The lawyer argued that the watchdog does not need to get food tested only at accredited food laboratories. Under the Act, the tests have to be done by a food analyst, who is an expert, and can be conducted in any food laboratory. It’s his expertise that is of importance for validating the tests, Khambata said.

FSSAI banned Maggi noodles on 5 June following reports from various states about high levels of lead and the presence of taste enhancer monosodium glutamate. The food regulator termed the noodles as “unsafe and hazardous" for human consumption. Following its own tests, which found a high content of lead, Maharashtra banned the sales of Maggi noodles in the state on 6 June.

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