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Half The Snacks USA Blocked From Entry This Year Are From India, And ‘Filthy’ Is A Reason

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The Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore has allowed India manufactured Maggi to be sold in markets, reports said, after it declared it to be free of health risks. While Nestle has hired APCO Worldwide for rebuilding its image and is seeking a judicial review and revocation of the orders of food safety regulators banning Maggi in Maharashtra , it was interesting to note a Wall Street Journal article highlighting what the United States’ FDA found in Indian snacks.


Some number crunching done by WSJ found that “half of all the snack products that were tested and blocked from sale in the U.S. this year were from India. Indian products led the world in snack rejects last year as well.” FDA’s import refusal report which lists among other things the name of the manufacturer, the place of manufacturing, and the charge(s) for refusal, is likely to ruffle snacks consumers in India if the response to the Maggi fiasco is anything to go by. While Haldiram’s snack products had the highest refusals among snack products between January and March 2015, Bikaji, Bikanervala Foods Pvt. Ltd., Jhaveri Industries of Badshah Masala fame, Hindustan Unilevers Ltd., Britannia, MDH Ltd., Adani Food Products Pvt. Ltd., Heinz Pvt. Ltd., and Mother Dairy are some of the popular manufacturers whose products- ranging from whole grain, bakery products, and snack food items to spices, flavors and salts were refused by the FDA. Some of these products had a labeling problem or did not mention their ingredients properly, while others contained pesticides, were sometimes charged as simply “FILTHY”. Some of these were rejected for containing Salmonella – whose permissible limit in India too, as per Food Safety and Standards Authority of India, is very small – which Mayo Clinic says can cause “diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps within eight to 72 hours.”

A high concentration of lead can cause serious troubles and authorities are always likely to crack down on lead exceeding permissible limits. However, the case of MSG is different. It is usually considered safe (although it can lead to health problems in the long run) and the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India has limits prescribed for it (in the list of permissible limits of MSG) only for table olives and frozen fish fillets. That’s why perhaps the FSSAI, Bengaluru Centre, is confused whether to suggest a ban because it found lead content to be well within the permissible 2.5 ppm. Maggi defended itself by saying that it does not add MSG, although naturally occurring MSG might be present. An Economic Times article said, and it appears, that FSSAI had only “admonished the company for labeling the pack with the line ‘No added MSG'”.

However Maggi fares in the long run, we Indians do need to discuss what the implications of our fast food and snack habits can be. It is already said in media that big multinationals adhere to the strict regulations of developed countries while food products containing contaminants or excessive additives are shipped to developing countries. Take for instance MSG, which is popularly known as ajinomoto. It is a flavor enhancer and can make inferior quality food taste better. There is profit to be made there and it is probably being made, that too, at the risk of the health of the people of developing countries. “Chinese” and other foreign noodles are already being smuggled to the North Eastern states, a report in the Hindu said.

It is imperative then that regulatory bodies buckle up. Limiting this to Maggi or Nestle would be a short-sighted measure and would hardly do anything for the general health of the nation. A senior-vice president at Haldiram’s defended his company saying that “a pesticide that is permitted in India may not be allowed there (the U.S.)”. But given the response to MSG in Maggi, perhaps the regulatory bodies may want to re-consider what they allow and what they don’t in our food. Pesticides have no business inside human bodies whether Indian or American.

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  1. Rohan

    It’s not only about MSG, it’s about lead and Maggie has become a household staple food for kids.
    There’s got to be a start. If it’s Nestlé. …so be it….the rest need to fall in line. Who needs statistics from a country like USA who has f_ _ _ed up food universally. Genetically messed up meat. …..that’s all Americans eat. The country has the highest chronic diseases but the US FDA is zip shut because of the amount of jobs the screwed up meat sellers create. What about just few months ago Subway was caught using more than needed chemicals in their bread which are used to make Yoga Mats softer.
    So what’s the point of this article? Should food with lead be fed to kids and Indian Army just because it’s a 64 billion dollar company? What’s the damn point? Why can’t one appreciate a start in a country like India? If US is still battling after having a ‘so called’ system in place, imagine how much ground a 3rd world country has to cover. If India took the initiative what’s wrong? Somehow many of my Indian American friends would rather bat for Nestlé then for India. All their lives they keep on criticizing the corruption in India and now if things are changing, it’s still a part of corruption. Pathetic!!!!

  2. Isabel Ortman

    Great Article. suggestions . I loved the analysis – Does anyone know if my company might be able to access a template a form version to edit ?

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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.

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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.

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