#THE NESTLE INDIA AFFAIR – GOING BEYOND BRAND AMBASSADORS & MAGGI NOODLES

THE PRESENCE OF LEAD AND HIGH LEVELS  OF MSG (monosodium glutamate), a flavour enhancer, in the #Maggi Noodles packets of #Nestle India has understandably caused a stir in all the right quarters and the authorities are also probably correct  in holding celebrities accountable  for endorsing brands without caring to examine what they lend their names for.

IT IS OF COURSE ANYBODY’S GUESS IF the sales of a product  really rises merely because a matinee idol has endorsed it although it may be possibly true in the case of  clothes/fashion accessories.  We are told that Amitabh Bachchan has more than 15 mn followers on  Twitter and that  Madhuri Dixit has 3.6 mn on the same platform.  My own take is that purchase decisions of persons on Twitter particularly with respect to food items are not really influenced by the number of followers that celebrities (who endorse such items) command on social media.  However, the #Nestle India affair will make celebrities in India more circumspect henceforth before they take on brands for endorsement – notwithstanding the attraction of a hefty fee.  If they do, they may demand a rigorous certification before hand and that would be a good thing for all of us.

WHAT BEGAN AS AN ACTION BY THE UTTAR PRADESH Food Safety & Drug Administration soon spread to other areas, notably in the State of Kerala which ordered the complete withdrawal of #Maggi packets from all shop shelves statewide. It is not quite clear from the Maggi episode if Nestle India was unfairly singled out particularly when it is doubtful if most processed foods in India will pass the rigorous tests of quality control. While one cannot complain that the action taken by the Government of Kerala is Draconian, it may not be able to successfully escape the charge of selective targeting particularly when the State happens to be a region where vegetables are sold with the most toxic chemicals injected into them for “better colour” and “quick ripening” effects !  Mind you, this is on top of the indiscriminate use of fertilisers.  Against public outcry, the Government of Kerala recently despatched a team to Tamil Nadu to discuss the containment and prevention of the obnoxious practice of chemical injection into vegetables sent for sale into Kerala from Tamil Nadu.  Serious follow up action on the ground on this issue has yet to be seen.

NOT SO LONG AGO, WHEN SHAHRUKH KHAN was chided in public for endorsing a soft drink, he retorted saying that  probably more toxic chemicals have found their way in the breast milk of nursing mothers in India on account of fertilizers  in the food they ate rather than in the product he endorsed !!  He was dead right.

THERE IS PROBABLY A LOT TO BE DONE BY US INDIVIDUALLY in our own selfish interests. Every Indian family having space for a garden should grow their own vegetables. We could then even avoid paying premium in the select outlets that sell “organic food”.  The Malayalam filmmaker #Roshan Andrews caused a positive stir in Kerala when his popular film #”How Old Are You” powerfully portrayed the beneficial effects of having one’s own small garden. At the end of the day we have to take care of ourselves: manufacturers of processed foods and mass growers of vegetables and fruits may well know how to avoid the long arm of law. It is our precious health that is on the line.

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