The Maggi soup might still be tasty for millions of Indians, but that could not rescue its maker Nestle from the great soup it’s in. Thanks to this information age, every state government in India is under (public?) pressure to ban it. If any authority dares wait till the test results, it is seen as a nexus with the over 100-year-old company. The Swiss multinational, not able to face such embarrassment, is adamant on the ‘safety’ of the India’s most popular noodles for decades. The company has so far refused to obey recall orders issued by various authorities. It gave its own logic. “On 30 April 2015 the local authorities in Lucknow asked us to recall one batch of MAGGI Noodles (around 200,000 packs) which were manufactured in February 2014 and expired in November 2014. Nestlé India’s practice is to collect stock that is close to its expiry date from distributors so we are confident that these packs are no longer in the market,” said Nestle India in a statement. The company’s statement means the harmful content, if it were, has already been consumed, and there is no point recalling the rest.
Even if the company wants, a ‘total recall’ will be such a huge exercise that it might cost more the whole Maggi consignment itself! It’s not like recalling a few thousand units of Nissan’s Micra and Sunny models last year. Unlike car dealers, where the owners will happily bring their vehicles to be replaced with new ones, the stock of Maggi being an FMCG (fast-moving consumer good) is unlikely to come back so easily to the distributors (whose number runs into thousands if not more). It is impossible for the company to reach out to the lakhs, if not crores, of ration shops in the country to get back the stock. Nor Nestle India, unlike car companies, has the mobile numbers, e-mail ids and home addresses of each and every consumer! By no means, the company by itself can recall the Maggi packets of a particular batch.
So why has the government asked for it. There is no report of people falling sick in large numbers after consuming Maggi. If the government has to withdraw the stock of Maggi in shops, it will spend crores. And, taxpayers will never know if the money spent was worth it or not! There are many companies selling noodles – some have even given the Swiss company a run for its money. The government’s genuine concern for public health will be known only when similar test is conducted on all noodles brands and the results be made public. Otherwise, there will always be a scope to doubt if business rivalry or politics is behind this anti-corporate move.
(Published as editorial in The Meghalaya Guardian on June 5, 2015)