For Maggi, the instant noodle brand produced by Nestle India, it looks like things are getting worse.
After Indian food regulatory authorities declared that the contents in the noodles possessed high levels of lead and ordered them off the shelves, countries like Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda and South Sudan in Africa followed suit.
Now, Bhutan has joined in to temporarily ban both the display and sale of the noodles.
The Bhutanese consume Maggi on a large scale as it is inexpensive, easy to prepare and readily available all around the country. For the poor, it is a meal in itself for the very same reasons.
According to the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA), samples of the noodles have been sent to Thailand to be tested. And until then, they cannot take chances with the product.
If it is confirmed during the tests that the noodles contain high amounts of lead and Monosodium Glutamate (a food enhancer), it will permanently be removed from Bhutanese shelves. And anyone found stocking the noodles or selling it will be dealt with in accordance to the Food Act of Bhutan 2005.
That brings us to the question, if Maggi does end up getting banned, will it be missed by the Bhutanese. The answer is a Yes.
At least three generations of Bhutanese have grown up to the taste of the instant noodles since it first arrived in Bhutan in 1984. Whether soupy or dry, with cheese or butter, with eggs or vegetables, Maggi is still consumed by the old and young alike. And for many bachelors like myself, the instant noodles is (or was) a life saver.
Maggi led its customers to believe that the noodles was ‘fast to cook and good to eat’ but today when we’re told that it isn’t good to eat, no one from Nestle India has come forward to say otherwise or refute the claims.
But till the results of the tests come back, here is a quick look at how Maggi came into being.
In the mid 1800s, during the Industrial revolution, when women started working in the factories in Switzerland, they were left with little or no time to prepare meals for themselves and their families. The problem grew to such an extent that the Swiss Public Welfare Society was given the task to undertake a study whereby they approached Julius Maggi and assigned him the job of creating a vegetable food product that was quick to prepare and easy to digest.
The result was that Julius Maggi in 1863 came up with two instant soups for the Swiss. And by the early 1900s, Maggi & Company was mass producing powdered soups, bouillon cubes, sauces and other flavourings. In 1947, Maggi & Company merged with Nestle India and began offering a whole range of products from packaged soups and sauces to frozen meals and seasonings.
The brand found its way into Bhutan only in 1984 and has remained since.