The court also gave the company 6 weeks in which 5 samples of each variant of Maggi must be tested in three accredited laboratories to re-check lead levels in the product. Production and sale of Maggi can only happen if the results of the tests are positive, said Justices VM Kanade and BP Colabawala.
On June 5, Maggi was banned in India and declared hazardous and unsafe for consumption by the FSSAI. MSG (Monosodium glutamate) and high content of lead was allegedly found in the popular noodle snack.
On Thursday morning, the court rapped the FSSAI and the Maharashtra FDA (Food and Drugs Department) for not following “principles of natural justice” in announcing the ban.
The court also observed that the laboratories, where tests were performed to determine lead content in Maggi, were not even authorised.
“For us, consumer interest is most important…this litigation may go on but we feel that the issue should be resolved amicably and, therefore we suggested the parties to agree to a fresh independent test,” the bench observed.
The judges refused to grant a stay on their order on a plea made by the food regulators as the company had given an undertaking that it would not manufacture or sell the product till the results of the three labs were received.
“The fresh tests would also take some time. Hence, there was no need to grant a stay on the order,” the judges said.
Nestle’s lawyer Iqbal Chhagla argued that the regulators banned all nine variants of Maggi noodles even though only three variants were tested.
Therefore, in the next six weeks, Nestle can go in for fresh testing by sending five samples of each variant of noodles to three independent laboratories in Punjab, Hyderabad and Jaipur which are accredited with National Accreditation Board for Testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL).
The samples will be taken out of the 750 samples preserved by the company following the ban. And the labs will have to submit their report within six weeks.
During a previous hearing, Justices Kanade and Colabawala had asked both the sides to give their consent for fresh independent test. However, the parties could not arrive at a consensus and the court on Thursday ordered fresh tests.
Nestle had challenged the tests by FSSAI and FDA arguing that its product did not contain ‘lead’ in excess of permissible levels.
The High Court relief comes as a big boost for Nestle, who was recently sued by the Consumer Affairs Ministry of the government for a whopping 640 crore rupees for selling “defective and hazardous” Maggi.