Adieu Maggi!

If you’ve been in India over the last week, you would have to have been living in a cave to have avoided any news about Nestle’s iconic brand of instant noodles- Maggi- being caught in a maelstrom of controversy. Tests conducted on packs (especially the tastemaker) indicated high levels of lead and MSG.

Maggi first burst into the scene in the early 80s. It promised kids and adults a tasty appealing tiffin/ evening snack that could be prepared in *hold your breath* 2 minutes. Now in the age of microwaves and take outs this might not sound like a big deal. But we’re talking early eighties in India when tiffins normally consisted idlies, dosas, upmas or the like that took definitely more than 2 minutes and where even in the “big cities” like Madras you could hardly find a restaurant that was open past 8.30pm. For millions of Indians like me it was the start of a grand love affair.

Come back Maggi!
Come back Maggi!

Maggi tasted like nothing we had known before then. Understand that we still had not yet very strict regulations- it was those grand old days when we liberally sprinkled Ajinomoto in our Indian version of Chinese noodles. Maggi probably had a lot of MSG in their aptly named tastemaker. But we didn’t care because it tasted good. When Maggi was first introduced it used to be a treat for Sunday afternoons- maybe once in a month or two. Traditional tiffins still ruled the roost. Finding Maggi on the table was a joy and delight- I always licked the bowl empty- a practice I continue to this day.

Maggi is more than just a convenient snack- for me it was always comfort food. I remember my trip to Ladakh in 2011. The place only really had 2 decent options to offer for most travellers on the road- Dal Chawal (Rice & Lentils) and Maggi. Even when trapped for over 24 hours near Rohtang Pass- I still relished the sight of brisk mobile vendors serving up maggi and hot tea. Because the altitude made the rice option very unappealing I literally lived on Maggi for most of the trip. I came back from that trip with my faith reaffirmed.

I always doubted Maggi’s health claims. Human experience tells us that nothing that tastes that good can be completely good- like trans-fat in delicious tasting junk food. So I hardly paid any attention to Maggi’s health claims about containing calcium and vitamins or whatever else. I never really believed the tastemaker didn’t have MSG. I agree the lead was a bit of a surprise but not a shock. After all we live in an age when apples get coated with wax, when watermelons get injected with coloured liquid chemicals, when I can’t bite into a ripe mango without getting an allergic reaction because of the amount of chemical fertilisers and preservatives that have been pumped into it. At least maggi never gave me an allergic reaction- never even an indigestion.

Maggi came in handy even in my travels. Everytime I travelled to a place where vegetarian food was going to be inaccessible or expensive I’ve taken Maggi with me. On a very hungry evening after a 3 hour walk I found myself cooking two packs of Maggi in my apart’ hotel in Dubai. I’ve even surprised my friends from outside India about how good instant noodles can taste. Maggi was truly a class apart.

So it is truly a sad day that I have to watch Maggi taken out from the racks. I’m not saying food products that contain harmful substances should be in the market. But now that Maggi has been taken out can we say that all the other things that sit on the racks are free of lead or MSG or any other bad chemicals? What about tobacco? Have we effectively prevented adults from smoking around children or even other adults? What about the pollution in our cities? The air quality in Delhi has been the subject of discussion for months. And what about water quality? I think it’s time we started seriously into a lot more health hazards that face us.

And parents should, if they are so concerned about the welfare of their children, look more carefully into what they are feeding them. The job of any marketing function in a company is to make a product look good- whether it’s instant noodles, cigarettes or alcohol or anything else. So believing a company blindly just because they made random health assertions is not the most intelligent thing to do. Look more carefully at what you are buying. Do some research- we have a lot more choices today than 10 years ago.

Whatever said and done- Maggi leaves a huge gap- not just in retail shelves but also in the hearts of people like me. I hope that Nestle lives up to its promise and brings it back soon.


15 Comments Add yours

  1. SAN_jeet says:

    there are so many jokes and news on Maggi these days in India

  2. Lav says:

    Well said! If they were really serious about contaminants, I would have expected more products to come under scrutiny (all the instant noodles brands). Instead just Nestlé is being investigated. That makes me suspect the intent.

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Well now they are catching all kinds of mnc food but who regulates the street food vendors or even the restaurants or the garbage?

  3. Lata Sunil says:

    Maggi has helped me in so many situations, I dont know what to do now. Being a terrible cook, Maggi helped me in my initial days post marriage, when we shifted to a new place, fast to fill up my kids when they got back from play.. But now what?

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      I know right? I guess we stick to other brands (but they are just not as good) until Maggi makes a come back

  4. Saravanakumaran says:

    Very well written Sukanya…that I remembered my first time with Maggi more than 30 years ago!!! While I support the ban…I also wish food quality & hygiene are severely regulated…

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Thank you Saravanan! I love maggi but I agree that food quality is a big concern.

  5. Nirmala says:

    For all the true Maggi fans I wish it comes back soon!

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Me too!!!

  6. nivs24 says:

    I am happy that Maggi is banned. I know it is convenient but I think it is too convenient to the point that cooking two minute foods that has absolutely no nutrition is really counterintuitive. I like Maggi too, but when I look at calorie and ingredients on the pack, I decided to move this food into once a month consumption list. But I can make that choice, I am an adult. What surprises me is the stocking of this food in the pantry and making it a snack meal for kids every other day. Common, giving kids empty nutrition every other day is a scatter brain idea, and for that reason alone I am happy that this product is banned.

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      I’m an adult and I love maggi despite all the bad ingredients but that is a choice I have made as an informed independent adult. I agree with you about parents giving this to kids everyday just because the ads say it’s a healthy snack.

  7. I’m in the UK and I’ve still heard about the Maggi story. Obviously the lead is an issue, but as MSG I can’t help but think as long as it is labelled correctly, people should be able to make their own decision as to whether or not they choose to buy the product.
    Popping by on the A to Z Road Trip

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Hi Debbie, thanks for visiting. I agree- people should be responsible for doing a bit of research before they buy and they can’t just go with the marketing department’s comments.

  8. Apar says:

    For some reason I was never a fan of Maggi…though A does like it! So, this ban does not really make a difference to me. I have at times resorted to having it (like you said a convenient vegetarian option) or catered to others wanting it. I can however relate to what you have posted. This ban only makes me wonder how many more products would be put under the microscope! India is not a place where people look closely at ingredients, care about packaging/distribution/shelving or even expiry dates. I think I have caught ads for ajinomoto while channel surfing even now. Sometimes I think I have to join the #EatRealFood group! 🙂

    1. Sukanya Ramanujan says:

      Ajinomoto as in the company says their products are not harmful- maybe they are not when taken in extremely small quantities- point is we don’t know. So it’s better we stick to what we know and be safe.

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