Image Courtesy : Reuters.
So after a lot of hullabaloo, Nestlé’s Maggi is back again. After the Bombay High Court repealed the ban on Maggi in August, Karnataka and Gujarat governments have gone on to remove the ban on sale of the popular 2-minute noodles in the two states.
The pride of place that Maggi occupies in the hearts and minds of a lot of people is unquestionable. Most people have their own stories regarding the popular brand and this was something used by Nestlé as part of their “Meri Maggi” ad campaign. The ease of its availability (before the ban) and preparation meant that people across the country, from school-going kids to homesick bachelors living far away from home, used to enjoy it. I remember my own childhood when we used to pester our mother to prepare Maggi for us. Those days, there used to be just two flavours- Masala and Chicken. Even in a remote town in the North-East, Maggi was available. When I came to Gujarat to study, I frequently prepared Maggi for breakfast or brunch or sometimes, even for the dinner,always cherishing the tastemaker. And I, like millions others, was grateful to the Magical Maggi. Until the ban came.
There are people who swear by Maggi and the invaluable support it has provide them in lonely or hectic times like exams (ask any engineering student).
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in UP first showed through tests that MSG and lead levels in Maggi were far higher
than acceptable levels. MSG, or Monosodium Glutamate, is a flavour enhancer that is a staple in most Chinese dishes. While Glutamate occurs in our gut naturally and MSG hasn’t been found to be harmful to health scientifically, like everything, excess of MSG can cause issues too (known as Chinese Restaurant Syndrome
, CRS). And Lead is a heavy metal that is obviously not good for health. After the results of the tests became public, there was a huge outcry and Nestlé had to face a lot of backlash. And then came the ban. Maggi packets were taken off from shelves of shops and malls across the country. The central and state government made it clear that Maggi had violated food safety norms.
I had a premonition that Maggi would be back, before long. I’m pretty sure a lot of other people too had a feeling like this. While others would have their own reasons for thinking about the possible return of Maggi, I was feeling that a big MNC like Nestlé can’t just let a product that occupies 70% of the Rs. 4,000 crore national market in its category go to drain. Pepsi and Coca-Cola were found to contain pesticides, fertilisers and high amounts of sugar in samples tested by the Centre for Science and Environment (CSE) a few years back. Didn’t they come back with more intent than ever after being diagnosed as flouting norms? Didn’t Nestlé’s own Dairy Milk come back after some of its samples had white keeda (bug) on them and many others had developed a white film on their surface? Multinational Corporations find a way out of all the setbacks and complaints that they receive.
Sunita Narain-led CSE charged PepsiCo and Coke of using pesticides in their soft drinks. Image courtesy: indiatoday.intoday.in .
So it happened that Nestle India lodged a case with the Bombay High Court and it was decided upon just last week. The court, based on the extensive tests (done in the wake of the ban) that showed the Lead and MSG levels in Maggi samples to be within acceptable limits, decided to overturn the ban. And Maggi, My Maggi/ Maari Maggi/ Maazhi Maggi/ any other translation, is back again.
What I find infuriating, not just in this case but most things regarding safety standards in our country, is that they are so very lax when compared to those in the USA or the European Union. Aren’t people of developing countries human beings? This has been a recurring problem. Our safety norms for motorised vehicles are weaker than those of the US and EU too, which, in case you didn’t know earlier, was brutally brought to attention very recently by the Volkswagen scandal. In Maggi’s case, when news of the tests in UP first broke, it was followed by similar discovery by agencies in other states too. That was what led to the ban being implemented throughout the country. How then, Nestlé have test results on the same Maggi that prove the earlier tests to be wrong? Take for a moment that maybe some overzealous safety official in one state botched up the tests. Was the misplaced enthusiasm of that official shared by officials of the other states, or was it something else? I’m no conspiracy theorist so I’ll let you, the readers, decide that.
While there are people who just swear by Maggi and the invaluable support it has provide them in lonely or hectic times like exams ( ask any engineering student ), I for one am not a fan. Not anymore.True, I did write above that I cooked maggi many a times. But even before the news of the MSG levels being high came out, I had stopped buying or consuming Maggi. In fact, I try avoiding all sorts of fast food. And Maggi is, whether you accept it or not, a form of fast food. Any pack of Maggi will tell you what percentage of your daily nutritional requirement it fulfills. What it, or any other form of fast food doesn’t tell you, is how it adversely affects your body. Excessive intake of instant noodles like Maggi leads to all sort of problems like diabetes, high blood pressure, hypertension etc. This is where my problems with Maggi, and fast food, lie. The fact remains that most people who take Maggi as a substitute for a proper meal are letting go of the chance to get a balanced diet that has all the nutrients and minerals. Other points which need to be kept in mind are:
- Instant noodles like Maggi are made from maida (refined wheat flour). Maida is devoid of nutrition that whole wheat offers, being just a source of empty calories. Maida can cause indigestion and obesity.
- These are also rich in trans fats, which, as any dietician will tell you, are the bad fats.
You can read more about the dangers of instant noodles here
Suppose you are at home, preparing for an important presentation the next day at office. It’s 2 am. By now your stomach is crying out for attention. You go to kitchen and prepare Maggi, just to silence the rumblings in the stomach. A far healthier option, in my opinion, is to keep Chana (Bengal Gram) or Moong (Green Gram) soaked in water. Eating that instead of noodles will not only keep you feeling full for far longer, it’ll be far better for your digestion too. You might say, burning the midnight oil is seldom planned. Well guess what, you don’t need to plan on using the chana at 2 am! In case you don’t stay up till then, you can always use it next day for breakfast. It’ll still be far more healthier!!
All said and done, I’m no dietician or food expert myself and obviously, a bowl of steaming noodles once in a blue moon won’t cripple your digestive system. But as far as health and lifestyle go, avoiding them, together with other fast foods, is the right way forward in both the short, as well as the long run.
What do you think about the overturning of the ban on Maggi and India’s safety norms? Sound off in the comments section below. Thanks for reading.