The food regulators of Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Haryana and Assam have reportedly found nine products of major companies to be “substandard” after they failed quality tests conducted between April 2016 and January 2017.
According to information accessed by The Indian Express under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, these products include Pepsico’s Mirinda, Nestle’s Cerelac Wheat, Adani’s Fortune oil, Marico India’s Saffola oil, Parle Agro’s Frooti and a cheese spread used by the Subway chain.
The RTI replies show that Herbalife’s energy drink, Murugappa group’s Parry packaged drinking water and Haldiram’s Aloo Bhujia are among the products reported to have failed the quality tests during this period.
In a number of cases, the companies have either questioned the test procedure or have asked for re-analysis of the samples.
* Mirinda, soft drink, Pepsico India Holdings Private Ltd
Five reports found Mirinda to be “substandard”. In the first report dated January 12, 2017, the food safety officer of Gurgaon found batches of Mirinda to be “unsafe as well as substandard”. Asked about the action taken against the company, the officer stated in an RTI reply: “Letter (has been) sent for permission for prosecution to commissioner of FDA (Food and Drug Administration of Haryana).” In three probe reports — April, May and October last year — the state food lab of FDA Haryana found “Mirinda” to be “misbranded”. In the fifth probe report of October 2016, the lab found “Mirinda” to be “misbranded, substandard and unsafe”. According to an RTI reply, the lab did not have the information regarding the action taken in last four cases because the matter was “not related” to its “office”.
A PepsiCo India spokesperson said: “PepsiCo operates in the state of Haryana through its franchisee. The franchisee has received only one of the reports (18th May 2016) referred to by you and have requested for a reanalysis of the sample mentioned in that report. No other notice referred by you has been received by our franchisee… All products, including Mirinda, comply with the food regulations and are completely safe and hence pulling out Mirinda is unwarranted.”
* Cerelac Wheat (Infant Food), Nestle India Ltd
In a report dated October 14, 2016, this product was found to be substandard by Chief Medical and Health Officer (CMHO) of Rajasmand district in Rajasthan. In one RTI reply, the CMHO told The Indian Express that Cerelac failed at the quality parameter of “total protein”. Asked what action has been taken against the company, the officer’s RTI reply stated: “Anusandhan jaari (Investigation is ongoing)”.
In its response On Monday evening, The Nestlé India Spokesperson told The Indian Express: “We strongly disagree with the findings of the food analyst, Udaipur. We have got the product from the same batch analysed at three different laboratories which are NABL accredited and FSSAI notified and reports of these laboratories show protein to be over 15%, which is above the norms. The product is also compliant with all labeling requirements. A representation has been filed before the designated officer with the request to drop all proceedings. To the best of our knowledge, no case has been filed before any court of law.”
* Fortune, refined rice brand oil, Adani Wilmar Ltd
The test results were received by the CMHO of Bundi at Rajasthan on July 15, 2016. “Acid value (of Fortune oil) was found to be 0.67, which must not be higher than 0.5,” the officer stated in an RTI reply. Asked about action taken against Adani Wilmar, the officer’s RTI reply stated: “Anusandhanrat (Under investigation)”. An Adani spokesperson said: “So far we have not received a notice on Refined Rice Bran Oil from Bundi, CMO. As regards the acid value on Rice Bran Oil, the permitted limit is 0.50, However due to the faulty procedure (wrong indicator) adopted by many public analysts, the result may show acid value on higher side….There is no question of withdrawing the product from Indian Market as Rice Bran Oil is one of the healthiest oils available in the market and our product meets the standards as provided under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.”
* Saffola Gold, blended edible vegetable oil, Marico Ltd
This product sample was picked up on May 9 last year by food safety officer Naresh Kumar Chenjara in Sawai Madhopur, Rajasthan. The probe results came on May 27, 2016, wherein the product was declared substandard as its acid value was 1.12 instead of the permitted limit of 0.50. “The sample of Blended Edible Vegetable Oil (Saffola Gold) Loose bearing code number and serial number H-875 of designated officer cum the CMHO of Sawai Madhopur is substandard as it does not conform to the prescribed provisions of food safety and standards (Food Products Standards and Food Additive) Regulation, 2011,” said the probe report.
In an RTI reply, Umesh Sharma, CMHO, Sawai Madhopur, told the newspaper: “Under Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, (we are) submitting chargesheets in court against the firms/manufacturers.” Marico Limited did not respond to requests seeking comment.
* Processed cheese spread, Subway Systems Indian Private Ltd
On July 21, 2016, the food safety officer of Faridabad picked up the sample of “processed cheese spread” from “Subway, SCF-78, Sector -15, Faridabad”. The product has been found to be substandard as it was “misbranded”. Asked about the action taken, the food safety officer, in a RTI reply, said: “Case pending to launch”.
In its response Monday morning, Subway spokesperson told The Indian Express: “We would like to place on record that Subway does not use “Processed cheese spread” as an ingredient in any of its products.”
* Frooti, mango drink, Parle Agro
In three probe reports — June 13, July 14 and August 2, 2016 — the state public health laboratory of Assam found “Frooti Mango drink” to be “substandard” as it failed on the “physical” parameter. These samples, which were found substandard, were manufactured by Padmesh Beverages at its plant in Satgaon, Guwahati, Assam. Parle Agro has given a contract to Padmesh Beverages for Frooti manufacturing.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of Assam said in an RTI reply: “The action against samples which have been declared substandard by the food analyst to the government of Assam are being taken and are at different stages of adjudication in the court of the adjudicating officers in the district headquarters of the state.” Parle Agro did not respond to requests seeking comment.
* Packaged drinking water, Parry Enterprises India
On July 20, 2016, the food safety wing of Kanchipuram in Tamil Nadu found that the aerobic microbial count in the sample of Parry packaged water was 32 colony forming units (CFU)/ml. As per food safety rules, the maximum limit of aerobic microbial count in packaged water must not be more than 20 CFU/ml. A microbial limit test checks if the presence of microorganisms such as bacteria, yeast and mould in a sample is exceeding the limit or not. Asked about action taken against the company, the Kanchipuram wing stated in an RTI reply that “adjudicating process will be started against the concerned food business operators”.
The Murugappa group company said: “Please note that we are unable to refer to the Probe Report you have referred above, as we have not received this report. However, we were made aware of a test report (which reported the numbers mentioned by you above) by Kings Institute dated 20th July which was an enclosure to a letter from FSSAI dated 29th July, 2016, on a matter relating to labelling. We understood that this observation made by the Test house was in itself inaccurate and based on inadequate and perfunctory analysis as per the Act.”
* Aloo bhujia, Haldiram Foods International Private Ltd
In a probe report of July, 2016, the state food lab of FDA Haryana found “Haldiram Aloo Bhujia” to be “misbranded”. The state food lab did not comment on the action taken in this probe report and said that the matter is “not related to this office”. A product is called “misbranded” when it is not compliant with rules in Food Safety and Standards (Packaging and Labeling) Regulations, 2011. The company did not responded to requests seeking comment.
* Fresh energy drink mix, Herbalife International India Private Ltd
The sample for this product was picked up from a shop in Model Town, Sonipat, Haryana. The test results from the state food lab came on May 30, 2015, which stated that the product was found to be “substandard”. Asked what action was taken against the company, the food safety officer of Sonipat stated in an RTI reply that a case has been “filed in ADC (Additional Deputy Commissioner) court, Sonipat”.
The company stated: “With respect to your queries kindly be informed that the matter is sub judice and it would not be appropriate to make any comments at this point of time.”