NEW DELHI: India on Wednesday tested packets nationwide of Nestle India’s instant noodles after high lead levels were found in batches in the country’s north amid a mounting food-safety scare, an official said.
Food and consumer affairs ministry official G. Gurucharan said test results so far showed higher than permissible lead levels in noodles on sale in New Delhi, warning of possible regulatory action against the company.
“Samples have been tested from all across the country, we are getting the results one by one,” Gurucharan, an additional secretary in the ministry, told Agence France-Presse.
“For example tests in Delhi showed that 10 out of 13 samples contained lead beyond the permissible limits. Once we have all the results, Nestle India will be given an opportunity to explain.”
Stocks of Nestle India dropped more than 10 percent in early trade Wednesday on the Bombay Stock Exchange before regaining some ground on the growing controversy.
The findings in Delhi come after inspectors in northern Uttar Pradesh state said last week they found high lead levels in two dozen Maggi noodle packets during routine testing.
The state’s food inspectors filed a criminal complaint against Nestle India, a subsidiary of Swiss-based giant Nestle, at the weekend, while a separate petition was filed against Bollywood stars who have advertised the noodles.
Instant noodles have long been hugely popular in India, with Nestle a market leader.
Nestle India this week rejected the test results in Uttar Pradesh, saying analysis conducted in its own laboratory of almost 1,000 batches and independent tests on a further 600 batches showed them safe to eat.
“All the results of these internal and external tests show that lead levels are well within the limits specified by food regulations and that Maggi noodles are safe to eat,” it said in a statement on its website.
Other state governments, however, announced Wednesday they were conducting their own tests in the wake of the controversy, including Delhi, which summoned Nestle officials to explain the food scare.
Southern Kerala state this week ordered government-run shops pull all Maggi noodle packets from shelves until results were known.
Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Haryana, Gujarat and Telangana were among other states that have also ordered tests, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.