Maggi as a Food: A Food for Thought

By Ranjit K. Sahu

The recent controversy and the ban on Maggi noodles have brought forth a new emerging problem in the Indian society about what to eat. Unlike many other aspects of public life like watching a movie or wearing dress, food is not only a basic need of an individual that provides nutrition but  is also deeply intertwined into the culture and eating habits of the society. No wonder that the ban on Maggi has led to a flurry of reactions at various levels from individuals to political parties to the government agencies and MNCs. Still reeling under the reactions to the beef ban, the government seems to be on a back foot. However, this is an opportunity for the society to think stop and look again. While arguments against the ban present the absence of any such strict regulation against tobacco products that are likely to cause more harm, the ruling with the iron fist against magi seems deplorable. Yet, one cannot ignore the fact that maggi is consumed by the more vulnerable children whose development is crucial for both the families and society. Today there is sufficient evidence that lead levels can lead to impairment of brain development in children. In this context the ban on magi seems justified.  But that has to be done after sufficient evidence is gathered instead of taking action which looks more like a witch hunt.

With  a growing tendency in the Indian society of both spouses working to meet the expenses as well as changing life styles where fast food are increasingly filling the space of nutritious home cooked food. It  is not just maggi but any other fast food, rich in carbohydrates and salts (and preservatives if processed) that are replacing traditional food and this does not augment well for individuals families or the society in the long run, lead or no lead. An increasing number of diabetic and obese people in the population mostly in the middle class and the neo rich are a testimony to this.  In fact if at all one has to worry is for the reason that the food culture of the country itself is changing. While soft drinks have replaced traditional fruits juices and water, the healthy snacks prepared at home as well as fresh vegetables have taken a beating due to availability of pizzas and burgers. In fact there is a growing recognition of the need for vegetable sin the diet of children which has prompted many western nations to revisit the type of diet the school children get, including fresh fruits and vegetables and decreasing meat and processed foods in the meals being served in schools.

  Maggi was introduced to the Indian household as a recipe that was quick and easy to prepare when the busy housewife could not afford attention or time to the hungry child who was back from school or play and thus became a house hold name. However with the passage of time, its commercialization has led to its effects becoming more pronounced. Its consumption is no more limited to that hungry child but to all and sundry who want to grab something in a bid to fill their stomachs. Thus, the expansion of the consumers has increased manifolds over the decades after it   was introduced.  In many houses it may have replaced a main meal as well. Thus, any type of contamination in its contents must be seriously investigated.

The more pressing problem is not the presence of lead. It can be rectified by the company by following a better GMPs or undertaking rigorous quality controls. The more immediate concern is the changing attitude of the Indian society towards food, looking at it with a perspective of status and ease rather than nutrition and culture. The revelations of Maggi is only one example and many other products, processed foods and drinks that have entered the Indian household may need to be revisited too. Simultaneously parents need to put more efforts to provide their children better nutrition and help them develop healthy life styles and food habits for both the children’s and their own long term  interests.

Any industry would look at making profits and they have a right to do so. What is important is if there is a gross compromise with the health and well being of the general population at large due to such food products. We are adept at aping the west and following their habits in an attempt to present ourselves as equally sophisticated. It is time we realized the importance of our culture and traditional food practices and continue it without succumbing to market pressures.  It is also necessary that the government look into this aspect with more concern for the people and with a sense of responsibility rather than as a knee jerk reaction or by singling out few companies. If not the government will leave behind a bad taste of ill governance and bias in the minds of the people rather than a healthy society.

The debate of what to eat and what not to eat will not end with the abolition of Maggi nor will the series of cases and arguments. What is important is to sue the incident as an opportunity to revisit the food manufacturing practices prevalent in industries with relevant organizations. It is also important that the agencies involved in certifying the food products be given strict orders to report any malpractices that can lead to presence of undesirable components in such food products.

 For those people who are hooked on to Maggi and cannot think of food beyond it, there are ample varieties in the Indian cuisine and there are food channels that show how to make quick and healthy snacks. Tuning on to a food channel once a while would do good to many who are constantly glued to family soap operas while hogging less nutritious food.

About The Author: Ranjit Sahu, was born in India and is a doctorate in biotechnology. He has published two books in poetry ( 2005: A Year of Love and Drunk ) and his poems have appeared in the website of Presently, he is working on several volumes of poems with different themes.

One Comment

  1. maggi should be crowned as the ultimate delectable food in the culinary dictionary! however, surely it is not the only culprit that is destroying the youth’s health? varieties of other foods follow the trail when are these other fast foods and sweets and vegetables going to be seriously banned and culprits playing with peoples’ health be put behind the bars?
    it’s time such criminals are brought to justice
    but do we have the laws???

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