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Maggi No More! Delhi Govt. Bans Our Favourite Two Minute Noodles

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By Ananya Tewari

Note: This article has been republished from Down To Earth.

A total of 13 packets were tested and it was found that 10 contained lead more than the prescribed limit of 2.5 parts per million.

The Maggi controversy refuses to die down with the Delhi government banning its sales in the capital’s stores after finding that lead content in the instant noodles far exceeds the permissible limit.

maggi

Earlier, the Food Safety and Drug Administration (FDA) of the Uttar Pradesh government had filed a case against Swiss food major Nestle after excess amount of lead (17 ppm) was found in Maggi packets at a retail store in Barabanki.

A total of 13 Maggi packets were tested and it was found that 10 packets had lead content more than the prescribed limit of 2.5 parts per million (ppm).

Based on the test results, the Delhi government has declared the product unsafe for human consumption. Apart from lead, monosodium glutamate (MSG), commonly known as Ajinomoto, was also found in the samples sent for tests with no appropriate labels.

The Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additives) Regulation, 2011 provides a list of food products that should not contain flavour enhancers like MSG.

Though the chemical is not allowed in dry noodles, pastas and seasonings, including salt substitutes, it is mixed with seasonings for noodles and pastas, according to the Act.

This shows that there might be a loophole in the regulation which needs to be plugged soon.

Country-Wide Ban

Kerala has declared a temporary ban on the distribution of Maggi noodles across the state. Tamil Nadu, Haryana, West Bengal, Odisha, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Uttarakhand have also started testing Maggi samples for safety reasons.

A Bihar court has registered a first information report (FIR) against two Nestle India officials and Bollywood celebrities Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta for endorsing the product.

However, Nestle India claimed on June 1 that there was no lead content in Maggi noodles beyond the permissible limit which they tested recently in response to safety concerns. The company also said that the product was safe for consumption.

But Nestle India has remained tightlipped about MSG found in Maggi since their last update on May 29, which denied its presence in the seasoning.

Not A Healthy Snack

Maggi is an instant snack targeted towards children and the youth. This is not for the first time that nutritional concerns have been raised about the product. It has a history of complaints regarding its nutrition content because just like any other processed food, it has high salt and poor nutrient content.

A study by Delhi-based non-profit Centre for Science and Environment (CSE), in 2012, found 4.2 gram of salt per 100 gram of Maggi noodles with one packet containing 3 gram.

maggi noodlesThe study showed that consumption of a Maggi packet can exceed the recommended daily salt intake of a person’s diet. During the study, Top Ramen Super Noodles (Masala) was also found to have 3.2 gram of salt per 100 gram. Consumption of processed foods high in salt content is associated with obesity and diabetes.

There are several facts about ingredients and nutritional information of products that Indian consumers are unaware of due to the lack of appropriate nutrition-fact labelling.

Consumers have the right to know what is there in a particular food product and it should be clearly mentioned on the packet with the quantity of each ingredient, reflecting the recommended daily allowance (RDA). Appropriate nutrition fact labeling is globally known to facilitate dietary choices among consumers.

But till date, India has no such labeling regulations to address the same. Even today, a 70 gram pack of Maggi noodles does not provide information about the amount of salt content in each packet. Additionally, the nutrition information about fat does not reflect the recommended daily intake from per serving of the product. The label only mentions the percentage of protein and calcium with respect to Resource Description and Access (RDA).

The reports of excess of lead and MSG in Maggi are a matter of concern. The onus of safe-end product lies with those who bring it in the market. Besides, the food safety issue is much more than lead and MSG. Instant noodles are popular with school children and its consumption should be restricted among them,” says Amit Khurana, Programme Manager at Food Safety and Toxins, CSE.

Unregulated advertising of junk food targeted at children also plays a crucial role in determining their food preferences. Children often fall victim to advertisements as they are not mature enough to make the right food choice. Mandatory control over such advertisements is needed, Khurana adds.

Till date, there is no government-backed regulation to control celebrity-endorsed advertisements in our country. This could be achieved by not broadcasting such advertisements at places where children are the targeted audience such as cartoon and sports channels.

Regulations on food additives and colours also need to be tightened. The issue of food safety needs a multi-dimensional approach and along with the government, the industry also needs to take up the responsibility for ensuring the safety of their products.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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