Chennai

Top Ramen goes the Maggi way

Central food safety regulator FSSAI had earlier ordered the testing of various noodles, pasta and macaroni brands, including Top Ramen, Foodles and Wai Wai, manufactured by seven companies to check compliance of norms in the wake of Maggi controversy.  

After Maggi, it’s now Top Ramen that is in hot water. Reports indicate that Indo Nissin Foods, which makes the instant noodles, is withdrawing its entire brand from the market, pending product approval from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), following a request from the regulatory body.

However, Food Safety Department officials said that as of yet, they had not received any notification from the FSSAI with regard to Top Ramen. “All of Maggi’s products have been withdrawn from the market, but we have no notification about Top Ramen as of yet. Tests on the products FSSAI asked us to test are going on,” an official said.

S. Lakshmi Narayanan, designated officer, Food Safety Department, said samples of Top Ramen were sent for testing two weeks ago to the King Institute of Preventive Medicine, Guindy. “Results are expected later this week,” he said. In its June 8 notification, the FSSAI had asked commissioners of food safety in all States to test Top Ramen’s Atta Masala, among various other noodle and pasta brands for lead and other contaminants.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Top Ramen noodles were available at supermarkets in the city. One store in Egmore also had Maggi’s “Nutri-licious Pazzta”, another product on the FSSAI list for testing of toxins.

While food safety officials say consumer awareness over packaged food products has increased in the wake of the Maggi controversy and more calls are coming in to the department, G. Santhanarajan, Director, Consumer Association of India, said there was a long way to go. “Awareness of unsafe food is still very low among the general public. While the noodles controversy has caught the attention of consumers, many still not understand the long-term consequences of toxins in food,” he said citing the example of street food being served on strips of newspaper, allowing printing ink to seep into the food.

“Our recommendation for packaged food, especially the kind that is considered good for health, is risk analysis. This involves random testing of products on the market, not just for routine parameters but also for things such as pesticide residue, antibiotics residue and other contaminants,” he said.

The controversy over instant noodles in the country first erupted when a test in Uttar Pradesh showed that Maggi noodles had more than the permitted level of lead and mislabelling of monosodium glutamate (MSG) content on the packet. Since then, tests in Delhi, Tamil Nadu and other States have revealed excessive levels of lead. The permitted level of lead, as per FSSAI norms, is 2.5 mg a kg.

In the first week of June, the Tamil Nadu government banned the manufacture, stocking and sales of Maggi and three other brands — Wai Wai Xpress Noodles, Reliance Select Instant Noodles and Smith and Jones Chicken Masala Noodles — for three months on the grounds that the products contained unacceptable levels of lead. Nestle, the company that manufactures Maggi, then decided to withdraw its noodles from across the country.

What harm can lead cause?

Lead is a strong poison. Exposure to even low levels can cause damage over time, especially in children. The greatest risk is to brain development.

Lead is found in some paints, car batteries, certain toys, old water pipes, coloured powder and some types of porcelain said S. Raghunandan, professor of medicine at Rajiv Gandhi Governmet General Hospital.

“Lead is especially harmful for children, as they tend to absorb more of it. It is a slow poison, so effects may not be immediately visible. It can also harm an unborn child,” he said.

Long-term exposure can cause problems in neuro-cognitive functioning in children, such as memory loss and a loss in intellectual capacity, said Dr. Raghunandan. In cases of acute toxicity, it can cause severe abdominal pain, brain dysfunction, seizures and can even lead to a coma. “However, such cases are rare now,” he said.

In adults, high levels of lead can contribute to hypertension, chronic kidney disease and neuropathy, he said

According to the World Health Organisation:



1 Lead is a cumulative toxicant that affects multiple body systems and is particularly harmful to young children.
2 Childhood lead exposure is estimated to contribute to about 6,00,000 new cases of children developing intellectual disabilities every year.
3 Lead exposure is estimated to account for 143 000 deaths per year with the highest burden in developing regions.
4 About one half of the burden of disease from lead occurs in the WHO South-East Asia Region, with about one-fifth each in the WHO Western Pacific and Eastern Mediterranean Regions.
5 Lead in the body is distributed to the brain, liver, kidney and bones. It is stored in the teeth and bones, where it accumulates over time. Human exposure is usually assessed through the measurement of lead in blood.
6 There is no known level of lead exposure that is considered safe.
7 Lead poisoning is entirely preventable.




Lead poisoning symptoms
 
Children

Developmental delay, learning difficulties, loss of appetite, weight loss, abdominal pain, vomiting, hearing loss


Newborns

Learning difficulties, slowed growth


Adults

High blood pressure, abdominal pain, joint pains, muscle pain, declines in mental functioning, pain, numbness or tingling of the extremities, memory loss, mood disorders, reduced sperm count, abnormal sperm, miscarriage or premature birth in pregnant women.




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Printable version | Apr 12, 2021 4:14:34 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/top-ramen-goes-the-maggi-way/article7373496.ece

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