Sunday, 7 June 2015

Real hand behind Maggi action, 'junior' food inspector says

AGRA: Who brought Maggi down? "I did," said Sanjay Singh, a 1998 batch food inspector, on Friday, stirring a fresh controversy in the already boiling noodles row.

Singh said he did all the hard work for months but it was his boss, V K Pandey, who took the credit for exposing the instant food giant.

"I'm the man behind the investigation against Nestle India's two-minute noodle," Singh told TOI, adding that he had never thought his routine inspection of food items would make a dent in the company's multi-crore business.

Meet the man who destroyed Maggi and Rs 1300 crore market
Singh's senior, Pandey, the designated officer at Barabanki's food safety department, acknowledged Singh's contribution to the investigation. But it came with a rider. "Every individual has been given a specific task in the administrative hierarchy. Sanjay collected the sample and sent it to the laboratory. However, it was I who took action after the reports mentioned presence of high level of chemicals in Maggi," he said. 

Not to be outdone, Singh said he had followed the case for more than a year. "Had the department not backed me in my investigation of adulteration in the popular brand, the world would not have known the truth about how multi-national food companies compromise with our health, especially childrens'.

According to Singh, he picked up Maggi samples from a Barabanki market on March 10, 2014. "We sent them to a Gorakhpur lab for investigation. The tests showed presence of lead and high levels of monosodium glutamate."

Singh said he wanted to be doubly sure before he took on such a major company. So, he collected the samples again and sent them for a separate test. "The results were the same. The noodle had eight times higher than permissible presence of lead and MSG," he said. "I notified Nestle about the irregularities. The firm challenged the tests and demanded a fresh test at the Central Food Laboratory in Kolkata. Even there, the results were the same and I stood vindicated. "In Kolkata's state-run laboratory, they found a lead concentration of 17.2 parts per million (ppm), nearly eight times the permissible limit. The acceptable limit of lead ranges between 0.01 ppm and 2.5 ppm. The scientists also found high levels of added MSG, a taste enhancer, in the noodles."

He added, "Later, a case was registered under section 59 (1) of Food Safety and Standards Act 2006 (selling unsafe food items) with the court of additional chief judicial magistrate on May 30. The penalty for the offence is imprisonment up to six months and a fine of Rs 1 lakh."

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