The news media is abuzz with news about elevated Lead and MSG levels in my beloved Maggi noodles. I scan packages of Maggi lining my junk food cabinet – a secret treat for myself and the family ready for consumption in just “2-minutes”. My head says throw out these DEADLY junky noodles away, but my heart says NO! Looking at that yummy, crinkly yellow, green package of Atta noodles, my mind is flooded by memories of Maggi.
My family embraced Maggi in 1980s with open arms. Manufactured by Nestle India, Maggi made a block-buster launch in India. All kids got a tiny plastic Zoomie car with purchase of 10 Maggi packets. We anxiously collected the plastic wrappers, often stole them from neighbors garbage containers to ensure we could redeem packets for flimsy Zoomie cars, or poorly made board games. Kids fought over Maggi during school lunches and mom’s prided preparing Maggi regularly for their young kids. That’s how Maggi hooked us!
Maggi sustained my ever increasing appetite and ever reducing budget during college. Once I had a kid, he begged for Maggi at the impressionable age of 5. I resisted, but caved in every 2-3 months and let him have Maggi. My friends tell me their kids started eating Maggi at 2 – I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. Probably my child is less developmentally delayed than theirs, but that’s no consolation. After all the entire Indian race is now in grave danger!
It all started with one package that was tested by Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and deemed hazardous to health, and nearly 8 Indian states already pulled Maggi off their selves. Apparently Lead levels were 7 times higher than normal – though there is no safe minimum level of Lead at all. Pretty much all levels are unsafe.
All this talk of Lead is making my mind foggy! What if all Indians are walking specimens of heavy Lead? I have often wondered why the metal detector always went off when I walked by – am I a Lead woman? To add to my paranoia, I re-read this article from Mother Jones, originally published in 2013, stating, “gasoline lead may explain as much as 90 percent of the rise and fall of violent crime over the past half century (for America)”. Has the Maggi Lead levels contributed to the increasing gang-rapes in India? There’s no end to these correlations, is there?
I have been closely following the reactions from Indians across the globe, most were idiotic and reeked for sycophancy – maybe a side effect of excessive Lead in their bodies too. Prahlad Kakkar, a lead advertising mogul stated India is a banana republic and loves going after the western companies making cola and noodles. Another judge, housewife, and politician stated unanimously that they’ve eaten Maggi all their lives and they are all NORMAL. Others said the Central Government has set up Bollywood and Nestle alike. But of course, we Indians are a cynical breed – we hate on the Government when it does nothing, and we hate on them harder when they actually do something!
Least to say I feel betrayed!
I don’t understand why Nestle would resort to such heartlessness. Does the brown skin on Indian backs make us natural candidates for experimentation? After all, our brothers and sisters in Bhopal are still reeling from the methyl isocyanate gas poisoning released by Union Carbide in December 1984. Nearly 5,000 or so people died then, with over 60,000 gravely injured. Of course, no one really paid up or was jailed. The $3 billion in damages translated to a mere $470 million in payouts.
The Swiss giant Nestle, is no different. The company issued a devastating and unsympathetic statement “Unfortunately, recent developments and unfounded concerns about the product have led to an environment of confusion for the consumer, to such an extent that we have decided to withdraw the product off the shelves, despite the product being safe.”
Though there’s more evidence needed and more dialog needed around consumer safety and protection, it’s critical FSSAI play a larger role advocating for consumer health. More transparent and replicable food tests are essential to protect the health of vulnerable kids and adolescents.
After all, Lead poisoning is no joke. Yearly, Lead poisoning kills about 143,000, with the highest burden being in developing countries. Nearly 600,000 children are afflicted with development disabilities – an entirely preventable poisoning. So let’s not laugh off this critical health matter that can potentially affect us all. For now, that Maggi packet I have been staring at does belong in the garbage can!