If you are an Indian, then Maggi has been a part of your life at least once. Maggi, a pack of instant noodles sold by the International group Nestle ruled the Indian hearts in the past decades. It has been a part of every Indian family’s grocery list. It is the comfort food of every Indian, may be as a hostel student or as a busy office-goer or if you are simply lazing at home, you have prepared these two-minute magic to satiate your hunger pangs. However, like a tragic twist in a Bollywood movie, Maggi faced some unexpected and irreparable defamation in the past month.
During a food inspection conducted by the government, it was found out that these instant magic packs contain high levels of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG) and lead. Maggi was found to contain 17 parts per million of lead, enormously crossing the permissible limit of mere 0.01 parts per million of lead. This led to series of protests and ban of Maggi noodles.
What prompted me do post-mortem of Maggi! Well, living in Africa assured me that I am 1000s of miles away from high levels of MSG and lead. However, today’s grocery shopping took me by big surprise. Look what I found out in Accra’s super market!
Maggi packets flooding the local super market called Melcom! Melcom is like the Big Bazaar of India, it is found in every corner of the city and is a popular shopping choice. All the different varieties of Maggi at triple the prices! The single packet of Maggi costs 13 Indian Rupees but is sold here at 2.5 Ghana Cedis, which would be around 40 Indian Rupees. Nestle is smart at Marketing!
Now, before I proceed, I need to make some facts clear.
- I visit these supermarkets regularly. I have never seen Maggi here. Maggi is found only in Indian stores at exorbitant prices.
- There are other popular instant noodle brands such as Indo-mie and Lele which are a favourite in Accra and we never had the need to buy Maggi from Indian stores to experience instant noodles.
- The time of banning of Maggi in India strikingly coincides with the appearance of Maggi packets at the African shelves.
- The Mumbai High Court on 30th June 2015 ruled in favour of Nestle to export ‘banned’ Maggi packets outside India.
So I am safely assuming that banned Indian Maggi packs and the packs I found at the Accra supermarkets can be the same. It slipped from my mind to check the manufacturing details of the packs, it would have further strengthened my assumption.
So coming to the question of business ethics. Though Nestle is fighting the legal battle claiming that the food inspection reports are untrue, does it justify (presuming that the banned Maggi packets are the ones sitting in African supermarkets) to export it to poor African countries or other countries,until Nestle is given a clean chit. I live in Africa so I can tell my story. I am not sure about the exports to other countries.
Now which African soul will check Indian news to get the update of MSG levels of Maggi noodles. Does Nestle or Mumbai High Court presume that human beings in Africa have super-natural digestive system that it can digest high levels of MSG and lead without causing any critical side-effects.
It may be just a pure business decision to export, something which is devoid of emotions or care for fellow human beings. But it is nothing short of cheating. You are selling a banned food product by dumping it on poor countries. It is the easier way out. Has Nestle declared to African govt that they are exporting food which is banned?
The question may remain unanswered as I don’t work in the Customs dept here. But if they are the banned packs, then Shame on Nestle!