The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has issued a showcause notice to Patanjali Ayurved, demanding an explanation on the sale of the atta noodles brand — launched by yoga guru Ramdev — without the food regulator’s approval.
Another showcause notice has been issued to Aakash Yog, the manufacturer of the instant noodles, seeking its response as to how the product was manufactured without a licence from FSSAI.
The notices were issued on Thursday under the seal of FSSAI chairman and acting CEO Ashish Bahuguna, asking Patanjali Ayurved and Aakash Yog to send their explanations in 15 days.
When contacted, Bahuguna refused to comment. However, sources in the authority pointed out that the company’s licence for pasta (macaroni, spaghetti vermicelli) does not entitle it to manufacture/sell instant noodles, which is a pre-cooked item sold with a non-standardised masala mix.
The sources said the notices were issued without delay because the FSSAI did not want to be accused of delaying the proceedings against Patanjali, especially following its action against Nestle’s Maggi noodles.
Ramdev’s spokesman S K Tijarawala said: “As I have already made clear, there are no violations by us. We have not received any notice. If they send us one, we will reply to it appropriately.”
As reported first by The Indian Express on Wednesday, the FSSAI had said the atta noodles brand of Patanjali Ayurved had not obtained mandatory approvals. While Patanjali cited its licence to manufacture pasta, Ramdev had said there was “some confusion” that would be resolved.
Justifying the notices, an FSSAI official told The Indian Express: “After the Supreme Court junked the FSSAI’s 2013 advisory in August, the regulator is in the process of drafting regulations. It is not legally prudent to give approval to any new product until a new regulation, validated by a statutory scheme to back the regulatory regime, is brought in force.”
The committee that was formed for recommending regulations has already submitted its report.
Officials said Patanjali might have wanted to cash in on the opportunity while Maggi was still finding its feet, and hence chose not to wait for the regulations.
The official added that instant noodles prima facie come under Section 22 of the FSSA Act, 2006, which prescribes absolute prohibition of the manufacture, sale or import of novel food, genetically modified articles of food, irradiated foods, nutraceuticals, health supplements, proprietary foods etc except as provided under the law. “There is certainly a lot of legal issues as far as launch of new products is concerned as at present, there is no valid regulation in force to regulate,” he said.
The FSSAI has given the same logic in its appeal against the Bombay High Court order lifting the ban on Maggi noodles, and asked for an immediate stay on its sale.