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Nestle approaches Bombay HC against FSSAI order

PTI 11 Jun 2015, 18:31:34 IST

Mumbai: Multinational Giant Nestle India Ltd today challenged in the Mumbai High Court the orders of food authorities banning nine variants of its instant product “Maggi” from the Indian market for being “hazardous” to public health and the plea will be heard tomorrow.

The revision application (appeal against the impugned orders passed by authorities in Delhi and Maharashtra) was mentioned orally by the company's counsel before a division bench of Justice V M Kanade and B P Colabawalla which posted it for hearing tomorrow.

The lawyer urged the court to hear the matter urgently as the company had suffered losses due to the food regulator's orders which had asked Nestle India Ltd to withdraw and recall the products from the market with immediate effect after finding that they were “hazardous to public health due to presence of lead more than the permissible limits”.

Nestle urged the HC to quash the June 5 order of Delhi-based Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and its Chief Executive Officer asking the company to withdraw and recall all its nine variants of Maggi from the market as they were unsafe and hazardous for human consumption.

The impugned orders also asked the company to stop production, processing, import, distribution and sale of their products with immediate effect, said Nestle.

Nestle also prayed for setting aside the impugned order of Commissioner of Food Safety, Government of Maharashtra, banning the production and sale of ‘Maggi' products of the company in the State.

The company said the impugned orders do not comply with the mandatory provisions of section 34 of Food Safety and Standards Authority Act which deals with Emergency prohibition notices and orders. It said the orders were passed without any authority and without following due process of law.

The company also said the impugned orders were illegal, arbitrary and violative of the principles of Natural Justice as well as the Constitution of India.

Nestle argued that the application of standards or tolerance limit by the authorities in the tests conducted by them for the presence of lead in its products was “incorrect and against the law.”

The finding of the impugned order that the cake and tastemaker should be tested separately are “erroneous and liable to be set aside,” it said.

It argued that there has been no misbranding or violation of packaging and labelling regulations as alleged by the impugned orders.

The directions in impugned orders to withdraw and recall its product “Maggi Masala Oats” was arbitrary and devoid of merits. Nestle denied that its products posed a health risk as alleged by the impugned orders, the company said.

  It said, on August 27, 2014, the company had applied to Food Safety and Standards Authority of India for product approval of ‘Maggi Masala Oats.' On February 20, 2015, FSSAI had asked certain clarifications from the company and Nestle India, which were answered on March 24.

 On June 5, the order was passed by FSSAI against the company asking it to withdraw products on the ground that they were harmful to public health. The very next day, Maharashtra passed an order prohibited sale of Maggi variants in the State.

Nestle contended that it had on its own conducted tests of their products since October 2014 and found them to be of a standard quality. It annexed copies of the tests to its appeal.

The company denied allegations of food authorities in India of the presence of lead in excess of permissible levels of 2.5 parts per million (ppm) and refuted charges that the information given on labels and package of its products were “misleading”.

Nestle further said that the allegation of lead presence in its products was “non-specific and vague” as it did not say how the product was misbranded.