Moga (Punjab): Packaged food company Nestle India has been in a damage control mode ever since its noodles brand Maggi was banned by Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on 5 June.
As the controversy around Nestle’s estimated Rs.2,000 crore noodle brand grew, it first brought its global CEO Paul Bulcke to India to speak to journalists and meet FSSAI officials. It also engaged pubic relations firm Apco Worldwide to manage public perception during a crisis.
As part of the ongoing damage control exercise, Nestle India on Tuesday took a bunch of journalists from New Delhi to Moga, Punjab where it has its oldest factory that manufactures Maggi noodles as well as dairy products, including powder milk and Milkmaid. (Mint paid for this reporter’s trip.) The plant is spread over an area of 49.3 acres.
The Nestle plant at Moga, a district in Punjab, was established in 1961, and is the oldest and the largest factory of the company in India. Moga is one of the five factories where Maggi noodles are produced. Noodles account for just about 10% of the total production capacity at Moga.
Given the current crisis, the purpose of the visit to Moga, journalists assumed, was to see the unit that produced Maggi noodles, and to understand the aftermath of the Maggi ban and how it may have impacted the work there.
However, the company did not allow them to visit the part of the factory that manufactured Maggi noodles. The unit, the company executives said, was sealed and not accessible. Instead, the Swiss multinational took the journalists to the company-owned laboratory that tests its products on a regular basis.
To be sure, the company made no mention of a visit to the noodle factory in its invitation, which said: “The visit to Nestlé India’s Moga factory will provide you an insight into the global systems, process and technology that we have adhered to and continue to follow to provide quality and safety assurance for our products in India.”
According to the factory manager (Moga) Satish Srinivasan, who has been working with Nestle for the past 21 years and has been in charge of the Moga factory for the last three years, the company sealed the noodle unit on 5 June after it decided to stop production. Despite repeated requests from journalists, who had travelled a distance of more than 395 km from Delhi to Moga, to see the facilities—open or shut—the company officials did not relent.
The reporters asked to be allowed a glimpse of the Maggi production unit factory from the outside. “We don’t want to send a message to our workers that could be demoralizing for them,” the manager said, declining the request. How a visit to a factory that has already been sealed could demoralize the workers further is hard to fathom. Nestle did not want the journalists to speak to any of the 112 people who are directly engaged in Maggi production.
The unit that produces Maggi noodles at the Moga factory also makes Maggi sauces. Even though that part of the unit is currently operational, but Tuesday was a holiday for the sauce makers too and none of the worker were available. The idea, perhaps, was to keep workers and reporters away from each others.
What Nestle showed reporters was its own laboratory—Nestle Quality Assurance Systems that has accreditation from National Accreditation Board for testing and Calibration Laboratories (NABL), an autonomous body under the aegis of department of science and technology, and follows FSSAI norms.
Nestle India is in process of recalling 27,420 tonnes of Maggi noodles and destroying it at six cement plants
[“source – .livemint.com”]