Nestle’s crisis isn’t yet over. Though the Swiss food products company has been trying hard to make things fall on the track, trouble seems to be catalysing every other day. First it was the ban on Maggi instant noodles and now the government has claimed damages of Rs 640 crore from Nestle India in the country’s top consumer court. The crimes refers to Maggi’s misleading advertisements that has caused damage to consumers.
This is the first class action suit filed with the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), consumer affairs ministry officials said. “Government can file a case on behalf of consumers. So we have filed a class action suit today (Tuesday) in the NCDRC,” a senior official said.
Class action involves filing of a suit on behalf of a large group of people. The NCDRC, where the suit has been filed, usually handles complaints filed by consumers. But the law has a provision under which both the Centre and states have powers to file complaints.
Officials said that the action was in the interest of Indian consumers, as Nestle had allegedly indulged in unfair trade practices, false labelling and misleading advertisements about the noodles.
The government action follows the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India’s controversial decision to ban Maggi noodles as some tests showed high level of lead and no appropriate label declaration of monosodium glutamate, commonly known as ajinomoto. Some tests in India and abroad subsequently showed that the noodles were safe. The commission will now hear various parties on the matter, said one of the officials.
On Tuesday, food and consumer affairs minister Ram Vilas Paswan cleared the proposal to move the consumer forum. Nestle has already challenged the tests in the Bombay High Court and found support in some quarters of the government.
Health minister JP Nadda told Parliament that “samples of Nestle’s Maggi noodles were found to be containing more than the permissible limit of 2.5 ppm of lead and also violating the labelling requirements about presence of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)”.