The Indian unit of food giant Nestle is facing a criminal complaint over food safety, after inspectors found more-than-permitted levels of monosodium glutamate and lead in a batch of Maggi-branded noodles sold in the country.
The Food Safety and Drug Administration in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh registered a case against Nestle India, after they found seven times the permissible level of lead in a routine test of two dozen noodle packets.
In addition, the company is facing a scrutiny by the Uttarakhand Food Safety Department, which has collected samples of the 'two-minute' noodles from its Pantanagar plant among other places and sent them to the state government laboratories for tests.
If found guilty of violating the country's food-safety laws, the company would have to face a fine to be determined by the court, along with jail terms for senior executives.
Media reports earlier said Uttar Pradesh food safety officials had allegedly found high lead levels in Maggi noodles and asked Nestle India to withdraw a batch of the product, manufactured in February 2014.
Subsequently, food inspectors in at least three Indian states said they were testing the product.
"The company does not agree with the order and is filing the requisite representations with the authorities," Nestle India said in a response.
Actors Amitabh Bachchan, Madhuri Dixit and Preity Zinta, who were endorsing the product in TV ads, were separately dragged to court by a complaint filed against them in Uttar Pradesh.
The company earlier said it was aware its Maggi noodles were under the food-safety scanner in India, adding that it would conduct its own independent checks.
Meanwhile, the Union Food and Consumer Affairs Ministry has also asked the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to look into the matter.
"It is a serious issue. We have referred the matter to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India. Under the current law, FSSAI has the power to take action, including imposing fine and hefty punishment," said Consumer Affairs Minister Ram Vilas Paswan.
Headquartered in Switzerland, Nestle has more than a century-old association with India. At present, the company has eight manufacturing facilities and four branch offices in the country. Nestle India's head office is located in Gurgaon, Haryana.