The Supreme Court on Wednesday said the testing of Maggi noodles samples as directed by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) will now be undertaken by the Mysuru-based Central Food Technological Research Institute lab.
The bench of Justice Dipak Misra and Justice Prafulla C Pant said the local commissioner shall collect samples of Maggi noodles from Nestle India’s Lucknow-based warehouse and send them to the lab.
The court said the test report would be submitted before it.
The court order came as it noted counsel Harish Salve’s grievance submission on behalf of Nestle India that “there was no necessity or warrant to issue a further direction” for testing of samples of Maggi noodles by a laboratory in Chennai when it had on October 15 sent samples for testing by Central Food Technological Research Institute lab in Mysuru.
Nestle India had challenged the NCDRC December 9-10 order directing the testing of Maggi noodles sample by a Chennai lab.
Noting that the samples were being sent to the laboratory in Mysuru following a consensus, the court said counsel for both Nestle India and the central government have agreed that the primary concern was health and the test has to meet the parameters of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006.
While contending that the Chennai lab was not fully equipped to carry out all tests ordered by the NCDRC, Salve contended that the Maggi noodles samples could not be sent to any government laboratory recognised under the Consumer Protection Act as the case against Maggi noodles was under the Food Safety Standards Act, 2006.
However, it was contested by Attorney General Roihatgi who said that the order directing the testing of noodles samples by the Chennai laboratory was passed on December 10 after the NCDRC modified its December 9 order on a request from Nestle India.
By its December 9 order, the NCDRC had directed further testing of samples of Maggi noodles by a laboratory in Mumbai.
The court said the NCDRC would not proceed with the hearing of the class action suit filed by the union of India claiming Rs.640 crore from Nestle for marketing noodles with suspect quality.
“During pendency of this appeal (by Nestle India), the NCDRC shall not proceed with the cases pending before it,” said the court order.
While contending that NCDRC gravely erred while ordering further testing of the samples, Nestle India said that in the past few months, it had voluntarily, in consumer interest, “undertaken testing of 3,566 samples of its instant noodles at nine different labs in India and abroad including samples tested at FSSAI notified and NABL accredited labs in India and all test results have shown Maggi noodles compliant”.
Nestle India has assailed the NCDRC order holding that if a laboratory, under terms of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986, is recognised by the central or state governments, or has been established under law and maintained, financed or aided by the central or state governments, then it need not necessarily be accredited by the NABL or notified by the Food Safety Standard Authority of India.
However, the Bombay High Court by its August 13, 2015, order had held that the labs that tested Maggi noodles were not accredited by the NABL, thus their findings could not be relied upon.
Both the Centre’s appeal against the Bombay High Court order and Nestle India’s appeal against the NCDRC order would be heard on January 13 next.
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