New Delhi/Mumbai: The apex food safety regulator said on Thursday it need not wait for test reports from all 29 states in order to take action over Nestle India Ltd’s Maggi instant noodles as the crisis over allegations of high levels of monosodium glutamate and lead content in the popular snack spread to neighbouring Nepal, and four more states took Maggi off their shelves.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) asked Goa, Madhya Pradesh and Punjab to repeat its tests again on Maggi, but found the tests conducted by Delhi and Kerala to be “absolutely authentic."

“As a national regulator we have to look at it, I may not need to wait for the reports from all the 29 states but I must have a representative kind (of tests reports)," FSSAI Chairman Yudhvir Singh Malik said.

Malik said FSSAI would give the company a chance to explain its position if it decided on any action. On Thursday, the company was yet to respond to a swirl of allegations. Badgered by the media, investors and stakeholders, Nestle India did, however, respond to consumers with more than a standard statement—by putting up a new section on its website—Maggi Noodles in India—with a detailed FAQ.

On the question of how the test results could have shown MSG when the Maggi label states that there is “no added MSG’" Nestle India responds: “We do not add the flavour enhancer MSG (E621) to Maggi noodles in India. However, the product contains glutamate from hydrolyzed groundnut protein, onion powder and wheat flour. Glutamate produces a positive result in a test for MSG."

Likewise, for the lead content found in some reports, the company says, “Trace amounts of lead are present in the atmosphere and in the soil around the world due to the use of fertilizers and pest control. The authorities have set firm limits to ensure that any lead present in a finished product is within recommended food safety levels and safe to consume."

Maggi, one of Nestle’s top-selling items, was reported to have lead content of 17.2 parts per million (ppm), higher than the maximum permissible limit of 2 ppm.

Meanwhile, Maggi was banned in four more states—Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Jammu and Kashmir and Uttarakhand. The Tamil Nadu and Uttarakhand governments banned their sale for three months, while in Gujarat and Jammu and Kashmir the ban will be effective for a month.

Assam banned the chicken flavoured version for 30 days. Principal secretary (health and family welfare) Sanjeeva Kumar told Press Trust of India monosodium glutamate (MSG) was found in tests and reports on other variants were awaited.

Apart from Maggi, the Gujarat government also tested one sample each of instant noodles manufactured by Sunfeast and SK Foods and banned the latter for a month after finding high lead content of 4 ppm.

Tamil Nadu, too, banned Maggi and three other brands of noodles for three months after high levels of lead content were found in samples. On the directive of chief minister J. Jayalalithaa, the commissioner of food safety banned the manufacture, storage and sale of Nestle’s Maggi, Wai Wai Xpress Noodles, Reliance Select Instant Noodles and Smith and Jones Chicken Masala Noodles.

Major retail chains including Future Group and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. as well as the army’s canteens have all temporarily suspended Maggi sales.

Meanwhile, Nepal announced plans to test Maggi noodles imported from India for lead content and may impose a ban on the popular instant snack if the level of toxic chemical is found to be above permissible limit. “We will put a ban on the brand by issuing a public notice if the test result confirms presence of higher-level of lead," said Hari Narayan Belbase, director of department of commerce and supply management in Kathmandu.

Nestle’s shares closed 3% lower in Mumbai on Thursday, after plunging the most in nine years on 3 June.

Bloomberg contributed to this story.

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