NATIONAL GROUP OF LAW STUDENTS FOR JUSTICE(NGLSJ) has sent a representation to the Union Minister for Food Civil Supplies and Consumer Affairs Mr. Ram Vilas Paswan with a request to initiate criminal prosecution of Nestle for Homicide, Seizure & destruction of products for which recall orders have been issued.
The representation refers to the recently imposed Maggi ban and also to a death of a child after consuming an expired packet of Maggi that was available in the market.
The representation also notes that “total of 40 samples from various states were collected wherein presence of Lead was noted to 17.2 ppm which exceeds the permissible levels of 2.5 ppm” in Maggi packets, a number which is astronomically more considering the food standard laws in the country. Moreover, the representation also invites the attention of the Minister to the fact that while Nestle claims that Maggi contains no MSG, MSG has been found in Maggi packets. The aspect of release and marketing of a non-standardized food product viz. “Maggi Oats Masala Noodles with Tastemaker” without risk assessment and grant of product approval has also been highlighted in the representation.
Recently, Kashmir Times had reported that a an eight year old girl died and five of her family members were taken seriously ill after they consumed expired ‘noodles’ of Maggi in Jammu & Kashmir. Moreover, food authorities of Uttar Pradeshhave recovered more than two-lakh packets of Maggi in circulation which had already expired on November 2014.
Even today, as Maggi has been banned by various states, it is present of shelves in the markets as stores are demanding compensation. Reportedly, a store owner in Goa has said, "How can the government not be aware for so long that the product had such a high content of lead? The government should compensate storeowners now if the company refuses to take the product back from us."
The representation also says that a young girl in Mumbai developed severe stomach ache in April 2014 after consuming expired Maggi, but no criminal action has yet been taken against the concerned authorities despite continuous complaints by the father of victim girl. It also states that Maggi is still being sold in India and that FSSAI has not acted as per its mandate, as no criminal complaint has yet been lodged by authorities for the same and no orders are given for recalling of samples which ought to be destroyed by Nestle under the supervision of FSSAI as stipulated in law
Highlighting that Cadbury had faced a similar situation in 2003 when Dairy Milk packets had been found with worms in them, the representation states that such huge companies get back by investing enormous amounts in their packaging and adverts, often ignoring the health quotient of their consumers. While sales of Cadbury had plummeted by 30 percent in 2003, it had later roped in Amitabh Bachchan to promote its products. Nestle on its part spends over 445 crore INR on advertisements and endorsements to promote their products and only a measly 4% of that sum- 19 crores on tests to verify and check the quality of their products.
Saying that Nestle is been grossly negligent in the performance of its duties towards the citizens of India, NGLSJ has demanded “destruction of all existing stocks of Maggi to stop any further damage and death and lodging of FIR against Nestle officers for intentional sale of expired items under section 270, 272, 275, 276, 420 and 307 of the Indian Penal Code. In addition, it has also sought a constitution of a special team of legal experts and social activists which can co-ordinate with State authorities and Laboratoriesto bring culprits to book for such heinous crimes.”
Asking the Minister to make public a participant in this whole process, NGLSJ has asked Mr. Paswan to “Issue a public notice to all important newspapers and TV channels, inviting claims from general public for damage caused to them by consumption of Maggi so same become part of proceedings before National Consumer Commission to get the maximum compensation.”
While government machinery takes its time to take out Maggi from the market, it can clearly be seen that the ban is still on paper and Maggi is freely available in many stores across states. The introduction of “Maggi Oats Masala Noodles with Tastemaker” in the market, without even getting the required approvals from the Food Authority also puts a question mark about the sense of care in the mind of MNCs about their customers. All this happens as Singapore has reportedly said that the India made Maggi that it has tested is “safe”. But the tests in India are quite to the contrary with lead content in Maggi at disturbingly high levels, the ball in now in government’s court to effectively implement the ban and take strict action against companies which take their customers for a ride.
NGLSJ’s patrons include Dr. S. N. Singh, Former Dean at Faculty of Law, Delhi University, Dr. P. K. Agrawal, IAS (Retd), Mrs. Promila Shankar, IAS (Retd.) , Mr. K. G. Gupta, Advocate, Ms. Sangeeta Srivastava, Advocate.