New Delhi: Does the ban on Maggi noodles get impacted by the Supreme Court order of Wednesday? It agrees with the Bombay High Court’s verdict that an advisory by the food safety watchdog on product approvals for some categories of food was without legal sanction.
This question is being raised as Maggi Oats Noodles with Tastemaker version falls under one of the eight product categories over which the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had issued the advisory in May 2013, calling for prior product approvals before launch.
And this category is proprietary food. The other seven are irradiated food, organic foods, foods for special dietary uses, functional foods, neutraceuticals and health supplements. Even the ministry of food processing was opposed to proprietary food being part of the advisory.
The apex court bench of Justice J.S. Khehar and Justice N.V. Ramana on Wednesday upheld the order of the Bombay High Court that had struck down this advisory, saying if the watchdog wanted to add some more products under its wing, it ought to have sought a fresh government notification.
The high court order had come after a company Vital Nutraceuticals, and the Indian Drug Manufacturers Association (IDMA) challenged the May 2013 advisory of the regulator.
Nestle’s contention has been that the food safety regulator did not have the powers to issue such an advisory. It has also maintained that the product had been launched when there was a stay imposed on the advisory.
It has also said it had reverted within the stipulated time to the food safety authority’s letter, asking for some details. “We responded within 30 days with the required clarifications, and our letter of March 24, 2015 was acknowledged by FSSAI,” the company spokesperson said.
But both the government and the food safety authority have faulted this interpretation.
In its June 5 order, banning all variants of the noodle brand, the food safety authority had said that since Maggi Oats variant was “proprietary food”, a product approval was necessary. Even if Nestle were to go by the stay order, it had no sanction to launch the product in the first place, the authority said. The government, in its Aug 11 petition before the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum, also made a similar case.
“Despite being fully aware of such an advisory, the opponents (Nestle) began the manufacturing and selling Maggi Masala Oat Noodles in July 2014 with utter disregard for the rules and regulations as prescribed, with the sole objective of reaping profits,” its petition said.
“On Aug 27, 2014, after the Maggi Oats Noodles was launched, the opponent company sought product approval of the product from the FSS Authority. For this act alone, the opponent company ought to be burdened with heavy costs.”