India

India court says Maggi noodle ban 'legally untenable'

maggi noodles Image copyright AFP
Image caption Maggi noodles are hugely popular in India

A court in India has lifted a government ban on Nestle's popular Maggi noodles, but 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 Swiss food multinational has always said its products are safe.

Thursday's ruling 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.

On Thursday, 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.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption 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 400 million packets of Maggi products.

The instant noodles arrived in India in 1983 and can be found in corner shops across the country.

Correction August 17 2015: this report has been changed to correct an error about the amount of noodles being destroyed

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