India is seeking damages from Nestle after reports of excess lead in its popular Maggi instant noodles sparked a nationwide recall, Reuters reports. The claim, filed by a government commission that represents consumers, marks the first time India has pursued damages from a multinational corporation. Since early May, several state regulators have reported too much lead and MSG in the noodles, and the country's main food safety regulator called all varieties of Maggi noodles "unsafe and hazardous" for consumption, per the Times of India. Nestle pulled them off the shelves Friday but says the noodles are still safe. State regulators, who have semi-judicial powers, are expected to deliver a verdict by next week.
It began last year when an officer with the Food Safety and Drug Administration in Uttar Pradesh, India's biggest state, had his team test Maggi noodles, Bloomberg reports. Their finding of MSG and lead (which Nestle disputed) has now created a crisis for the nation's food-regulation office, which is only seven years old. The scare has also spread to Nepal and Singapore, where authorities are testing pasta and noodles made by seven companies, including Nestle. Maggi has suffered "a serious hit," a brand expert says, adding that Nestle "was slow to react and uncommunicative in initial days." However, Maggi has a large consumer base and "people want this brand in their lives." Nestle's Global CEO Paul Bulcke says that "we will do everything it takes, and are fully engaged with the authorities to clarify the situation."