Mumbai: Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) Thursday justified the ban on Maggi noodles before the Bombay High Court, saying that the popular instant snack contained lead beyond permissible limit.
FSSAI lawyer and Maharashtra Advocate General Anil Singh argued that the food regulator had studied the representation of Nestle India (Maggi manufacturer) and was ready to give the company a hearing.
"We have still not revoked our approval to the product....We are ready to hear them and if they are prepared to abide by conditions laid down in law, then they would be allowed to manufacture and sell it in the market," he said.
The division bench of Justices V M Kanade and B P Colabawalla was hearing a petition filed by Nestle India against FSSAI's June 5 order banning nine variants of Maggi and Maharashtra government's order prohibiting their sale.
Singh argued that FSSAI had collected samples of various batches of Magge in different states. In all, 72 samples were tested and 30 of them were found to contain lead beyond the permissible limit, he said.
To a question by Justice B P Colabawalla, Singh said FSSAI had tested three variants of Maggi.
"If three variants were tested, then why should you ban all the nine variants? Also, why only Maggi was selected for the test and why not other noodle manufacturing companies?" the judge said.
"From what you say, the quality of 30 samples of Maggi was found to be sub-standard, but 42 other samples were found to be in order," the judge noted.
The FSSAI counsel argued that after the lab tests found that Maggi contained lead beyond permissible limit, the food regulator immediately issued order asking Nestle to stop manufacture and sale.
However, it also issued Nestle a notice asking why the approval granted to Maggie should not be cancelled in the wake of such tests, said advocate Singh.
"We have not asked Nestle to withdraw the product...We have only asked them to stop production and sale of Maggi," the counsel said.
FSSAI was entitled to ban the production because under FSSAI Act it has powers to do so, he submitted.
"We found lead content in 30 samples of Maggi to be beyond the permissible limit and this is dangerous to public health. In such a situation, there was no need to give the company a show-cause notice and hear it. Hence, the impugned order to stop production and sale of Maggi was passed.
"FSSAI was not against Nestle India or on inimical terms with it. We are ready to give it a hearing. If it complies with the conditions in law, we have no objection to the company producing and selling Maggi in Indian market," Singh said.
The arguments would continue Friday.
Nestle has argued that a certain batch of Maggi may have contained lead beyond permissible limit but the decision to impose a blanket ban was "unfair and illegal."
The company has claimed that it had tested the product in 2,700 laboratories in India and also abroad and the tests indicated that the lead content was less than the permissible limit of 0.5 percent.