By Rishi Iyengar
August 12, 2015

India’s consumer affairs department filed a complaint against Nestlé with the country’s regulatory body on Tuesday, accusing the Swiss company of misleading customers and endangering their health while also resorting to unfair trade practices.

The Indian government is seeking damages equaling around $100 million in its complaint to the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), the Times of India reported.

It also moved to impose 18% interest on the damages until Nestlé makes the payment, and said the amount owed might increase as more findings about the safety of the company’s product surface.

The government’s main target is the hugely popular instant noodles brand Maggi, which it banned in early June for allegedly containing high amounts of lead. Nestlé insisted the product was safe for consumption but removed it from shelves across India nonetheless.

Officials accuse Nestlé of attempting to make a misleading association between the noodles and health in the consumer’s mind (through such means as the advertising slogan “Health is enjoyable”). They allege that Nestlé sold some of its noodles as containing no MSG, which was reportedly not the case. They also accuses Nestlé of falsely representing that a product called Maggi Oat Noodles had been approved by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), when it allegedly had not.

Nestlé India said in a statement that it had not yet received an official notice of the damage claims. “Our current knowledge on this issue is only basis media reports,” the statement said. “We shall be able to provide substantive response after we receive the official papers.”

Food safety authorities in several countries including the U.K., Singapore, Australia and Canada (as well as an Indian government-approved laboratory) have all said that the noodles are safe to consume, but the Indian government has questioned the validity of those findings.

Write to Rishi Iyengar at rishi.iyengar@timeasia.com.

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