Nestle’s Maggi Noodles has now been withdrawn by East Africa’s biggest supermarket chain from five different countries (Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and South Sudan) after news of a partial ban on the product emerged from India. Regulators in India described the product as “unsafe and hazardous”.
Food regulators in India said that tests carried out on the Nestle’s Maggi noodles revealed high lead levels in the product, describing it as “unsafe and hazardous”. This led to a ban on the product in several states of the country.
Following public pressure, the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) has grudgingly acted on the lead-poisoned Nestle “Maggi” noodles and issues a verbal recall after which Nestle was asked to recall the product.
Although Nestle maintains that there is nothing wrong with the noodles, claiming to have tested a batch of 1,000 Maggi noodles in the country and found “lead levels… well within the limits specified by food regulations”, more supermarkets continue to withdraw the noodles.
The Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) has also asked Kenya’s port authority to prevent further imports of the product.
Lessons to learn from this crisis;
Many company want to make profit at all cost but that is why we have regulatory and standards body to keep them in check. In Nigeria, NAFDAC is saddled with these responsibilities but I believe they are not doing enough in terms of inspection and frequent tests on food products available in the market. I’ve heard cases of companies sending samples that NAFDAC would analyze by themselves. This is not right, NAFDAC should go the factories and take part of the finished products that are going to the market for their analyses.
Being pro-active could have could have saved India of having products with lead in the market but they too have a lot of flaws in the system.
For example, Uttar Pradesh, where the crisis began, has a population the size of Brazil’s but the state’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has only five laboratories – or one per 40 million people. This is way way too few if they are serious about their responsibilities.
Lastly, I believe Government should do more in funding and appointments. When you want to appoint someone to head a parastatal that deals with food, don’t appoint a pharmacist, chemist or medical doctor. The same goes for every other parastatals too – appoint someone who is well-trained in that field with years of experience on the job.