It turns out Nestlé’s 80% grasp of India’s instant noodle market isn’t as secure as it might have thought. The Swiss food giant is being forced to destroy $50m (£32m) worth of its Maggi noodles after Indian authorities claimed they contained dangerously high levels of lead.
The company denies the claims, saying internal tests of 1,000 batches have shown lead levels to be in line with regulations, but it’s nonetheless been pulling them from shelves in the country over the past month. It’s obviously a massive blow for the firm, whose brand reputation was recently named the 5th best in India.
Food scares are a common risk for companies operating in developing countries – although India’s fellow rising power China has probably seen the lion’s share. Last year McDonald’s said its sales in the country were hit by concerns about one of its chicken suppliers and Heinz had to recall some of its children's cereal over concerns about their lead content. Then again, after the 2013 horsemeat scandal Britain’s food safety reputation isn’t so squeaky clean either.
Nestlé's been keen to emphasise the importance it places on food safety. Pulling so many products will cost it dearly in the short-term but, as with Alton Towers' recent disaster, pulling out all of the stops is probably a price worth paying to appease safety-minded consumers.