MUMBAI: Your bowl of noodles could be a cause for concern, after all. The Maharashtra Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has found lead contamination in fresh batches of Nestle India's Maggi noodles tested over the last two months. Out of 46 samples randomly collected from across the state, four showed excess lead content. This lead content, expressed in 'parts per million' (or ppm) was in the range of 2.92 to 3.33. The permissible limit is 2.5 PPM.
The 46 samples had been collected in June at the instructions of the Food Safety Standard Association of India (FSSAI) that wanted FDAs of all states to conduct elaborate tests to ascertain the presence of lead.
Previously, a batch of 20 samples had been tested by the FDA in June before it embarked on scrutinizing of these additional 46 samples. In the previous batch, lead contamination was found in five of the 20 samples. It ranged between 2.59 ppm, running as high as 4.66 ppm in some samples. It was on the basis of this initial finding that the state government had banned the product in Maharashtra on June 3.
The new findings come a week after the Bombay high court struck down the nationwide ban on Nestle India's product. A senior FDA official said that they will share the findings with the FSSAI before deciding on the next step of action. FDA commissioner Harshadeep K amble refused to comment on the issue.
However, another FDA official told TOI on that the four contaiminated samples had been taken from Kolhapur whereas samples from Mumbai, Pune, Sangli, Kolhapur, Aurangabad and Thane conformed to quality norms.
"The first round of tests was done on limited 20 samples as there was spotlight and speculation on the issue. To make the findings authentic, more tests were ordered by FSSAI," said the official. "In the wake of the high court order, we will seek legal opinion on what to do with the new results," the official added.
The fresh tests were carried out at Referral Laboratory in Pune, one of the foremost national testing centres where the earlier tests on 20 samples had also been partly conducted. The high court had, however, raised doubts about the accreditation of the lab and thereby the findings. Accreditation of the lab was also one of the grounds for overruling the ban imposed by FSSAI.
Besides Nestle's Maggi, FDA is testing noodles manufactured by other companies. At least 27 samples are currently under scrutiny. "We are checking several parameters besides lead and MSG, a test enhancer. The tests will take long," the FDA official said.
Abnormal lead exposure is associated with health problems including impaired neurological development. However, lead poisoning takes place only when one is exposed to too much of lead in a short time.