Mumbai: The Bombay high court on Thursday struck down the food safety regulator’s order of a nationwide ban on the sale of Nestle India’s popular 2-minute Maggi noodles. The court has however, ordered fresh tests before the product can go back on sale.
Nestle had challenged the ban ordered by the country’s food safety regulator in June after some tests found lead levels beyond statutory limits.
The ruling on Thursday came a day after India separately sued Nestle for $100m (£64m) over “unfair trade practices”.
The complaint against Nestle is that it caused damage to consumers through misleading advertisements related to its Maggi noodles product.
The Bombay High Court called June’s ban on the popular noodles “arbitrary” and said it violated the “principles of natural justice”.
“We have examined the evidence in great detail. Since the petitioner Nestle has already agreed not to make and sell Maggi until the food authorities are satisfied, we see no reason to allow any relief to food authorities,” Justice Vidyasagar Kanade was quoted as saying by the AFP news agency.
The court directed Nestle to “send five samples from each batch of Maggi [noodles] for testing to three labs and only if the lead is found to be lower than permitted will they start manufacturing and sale again”.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had earlier said that tests deemed the instant noodles to contain “unsafe and hazardous” amounts of lead.
Nestle says its noodles are safe as seen in the results of tests conducted in other countries, including the US, Britain and Singapore.
The instant noodles arrived in India in 1983 and can be found in corner shops across India.
Two Indian laboratories in the western state of Goa and the southern city of Mysore also recently cleared the noodles, but the findings were dismissed by India’s food safety authority, saying there were lapses in the tests.
Nestle said in statement on Wednesday that it had tested 2,700 samples of the noodles by several accredited laboratories in India and abroad, and each of these tests “have shown lead to be far below the permissible limits”.
But the company, which has 80% of India’s instant noodles market, has already destroyed 400m packets of Maggi products owing to the ban.
Now that the ban has been lifted, the labs have been asked to complete the testing process within six weeks. Samples from the newly manufactures Maggi noodles would then be sent for another round of testing at the labs, before it is allowed to be sold.