In the late 1980s, when a little girl cried, “I don’t want the same bread and jam in school tiffin,” mamma made for her that ‘wonderful’ snack item. “Chomp…Slurrp! It’s just yummy,” she was overjoyed as she stuffed her mouth with her favourite noodle.
Some 10 years later, the loyalist hostalite enjoyed boiling water and putting in all the ingredients – making her favorite snack in just 2 minutes. “It tasted just as yummy as it had in her school days!” Now, she is a working mother, and she loved cooking the snack-food for her kid. Not much pain early morning plus a healthy alternative to fried snacks – or so we thought!
Yes, that’s Maggi we are talking about and no prizes for guessing that one. Be it a fun evening snack, a quick-fix for college exam nights, a hill-top hunger break, or a roadside dhaba meal, Maggi has been an indispensable part of the Indian diet for years. So popular is the two-minute snack that it is now synonymous with instant noodles like Xerox is to photocopiers. And so for those like me, growing up in the late ’80s and ’90s, Maggi’s ban in India following news of high lead content in it, was shocking, disappointing!
While instant noodle was always a popular snack food in the US, South Korea, Japan and UAE, the Indian penchant for instant noodles is really all because of Maggi, the brand introduced in the country some three decades ago by Nestle, the giant food and Beverage Company.
While Maggi has now been pulled from the shelves, and Nestle deserves to be punished if its products are found to be failing standards as alleged, the controversy throws up issues that showcase India’s food safety regulations in very poor light. For one, how has Maggi been selling in the country for so many decades without being caught till now? And, more important, how many more such cases are there in the shadows? There have been reports of excessive lead in paints, pesticides in milk, antibiotics in poultry anyways… the list is a long one. So why is Nestle’s Maggi targeted alone?
As investigators take time to find out answers to those questions, I would love to share a small paragraph from a recent article I’ve come across: “After the Maggi row, scientists have made a startling discovery about the extinction of dinosaurs and their relationship with Maggi,” it says. “We had found so much lead inside their bodies, they must have eaten hundreds of Maggi like substances,” said a paleontologist on the site,“ 2 minutes of Maggi unfortunately wiped them out even after surviving for 200 million years.”
For humans, extinction is not on the cards right now, yet at the same time, Maggi – if it comes back clean – may continue to be the preferred comfort food for many that makes it an interesting paradox. We need to watch out this space for sure!