Did not order Maggi ban, FSSAI tells SC
"The High Court erred in coming to the conclusion that the show-cause notice was a ban order," the FSSAI argued in its appeal against a Bombay High Court lifting the ‘ban’ on the Maggi noodles.
In a twist to the Maggi noodles ban case, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on Friday told the Supreme Court that it had never, in the first place, banned Nestle India’s popular household two-minute snack.
Instead, the FSSAI said it only issued a show-cause notice to the company, seeking an explanation about the “excess” lead levels in its products and, secondly, why it had made a “false declaration of no added MSG (Monosodium glutamate) when its products contained MSG.”
“The High Court erred in coming to the conclusion that the show-cause notice was a ban order,” the FSSAI argued in its appeal against a Bombay High Court lifting the ‘ban’ on the Maggi noodles.
Seeking a stay of the High Court judgment, that has paved the way for Maggi’s return, the top food regulator said “harm may be caused to consumers of the products, which will have an adverse effect on human health and life in the country.”Apprehensions raised by the FSSAI prompted a Bench led by Justice Dipak Misra to direct the Nestle and the Maharashtra government to respond by Jan. 13.
The FSSAI, represented by Attorney-General Mukul Rohatgi, explained that it had only asked the company to stop further manufacture, production, import distribution and sale of its noodle variants in public interest during the period of consideration of the notice. This, it contended, would hardly have the effect of a “ban order,” especially when Nestle had already issued a press release declaring that it was recalling its products under the scanner for excessive lead content. Nestle went on to destroy over 25,000 tonnes of Maggi products.
The FSSAI argued that the company, instead of replying to the show-cause notice, moved the Bombay HC.
‘HC order fallacious’
The High Court had interpreted the FSSAI notice as a ban order, and concluded that banning the company’s products without even affording it an opportunity to be heard was against the basic principles of natural justice.
The FSSAI termed the High Court order as “fallacious.” It asked how a notice issued in public interest could be described “arbitrary, unreasonable, lacking transparency” by the High Court. That too when the High Court itself has recorded the fact that out of 82 samples, 30 had lead levels in excess of permissible limits.
The Food Authority said the High Court had erred in disregarding the reports of two notified and NABL-accredited labs (Kolkata and AVON) that levels of lead were over the limit. It said the HC has committed a mistake by asking the company itself to provide the fresh samples for testing instead of asking a neutral authority to do so.