August,13,2015: Ruling in favour of Nestle India, the Bombay High Court on Thursday lifted the ban on Maggi noodles by setting aside the orders of food authorities. A Division Bench of Justices V.M. Kanade and B.P. Colabawalla deemed the orders of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) "arbitrary, unjust and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution."
Re-testing within six weeks
The Court directed re-testing of Maagi samples within six weeks in three accredited labs in Punjab, Andhra Pradesh and Jaipur. "After examining rivals contentions, we have come to the conclusion that principles of natural justice were not followed and on that ground alone the petition is allowed, particularly when the petitioner had given a press release a day before the ban that it had recalled the products," the court observed.
The Bench held that labs in which the samples were earlier tested, were not authorised to test for lead and the mandatory testing procedures were not followed.
Public health concern
The court remarked that though it was setting aside the ban order, it was " still concerned about public interest and public health." Therefore, it ordered fresh tests.
In June, Nestle India had filed petitioned to the court seeking revocation of the ban on Magginoodles and quashing of the order of FSSAI which had declared the product unsafe for consumption.
FSSAI contended that it can take action against food manufacturers on the basis of mere suspicion about the quality of their food products. Maggi products were deemed unsafe due to major violations, such as misleading labelling on MSG (monosodium glutamate), presence of lead in excess and launching of oats tastemaker without assessment. The Maharashtra government argued that the company had not followed the due procedures under the Act Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
Nestle India, on the other hand, sought to discredit the entire testing procedures saying that the labs testing Maggi samples were not accredited to test for lead content and there was wide variation in the results in different States.
In its petition, Nestle had said that the orders passed by the food regulators and State were illegal, arbitrary and violated the principles of natural justice. The company contested the results of excess lead in the noodles and tastemaker claiming that the testing laboratories were not accredited. The authorities, on the other hand, argued that Nestle had not followed due procedures as per the Food Safety Act.
Following the ban, Nestle started to recall Maggi products from the market. The company destroyed over 25,000 tonnes of Maggi.