The knee jerk reactions to Maggi leading to its ban is not surprising in a country like ours. I was never a Maggi fan though, and it had nothing to do with the appropriateness of its contents. Never cared much for its taste, though it has been a fervent favorite of the brother and the husband as any-time snack for the boys. It has never been a two-minute affair for either of them, with each having their favorite way of dressing it up. The bro usually liked it with chopped green chillies and bacon bits or some butter thrown in for good measure.The husband liked it slightly soupy-slurpy . I’ve seen mom adding green peas and chopped carrots to it though she really did not believe it would make it healthy. Well let’s face it, MSG or no MSG, lead or no lead, instant noodles made of refined flour and flavouring agents full of preservatives was never any good for us, and in that, Maggi was not alone. But then I do not know anybody who has instant noodles for health reasons either.

What is interesting though is that the outrage against the product however, coupled with the prompt ban, was quickly followed by rebellious messages from Maggi fans – understandably an integral part of growing up of all Indian kids – our equivalent perhaps of the American Mac and Cheese. There is, perhaps, one difference – the quality control in other countries is far superior than ours. And this is not just about Maggi but all our products in general, and food products in particular, but its no secret that the best of our country’s produce is exported. Manufacturers will not dare skimping on quality issues with a single unit of their export – but for everything else, there is the native consumer to cash in on. Urban areas starting with metro cities, then B class cities, smaller towns and rural India – perhaps in that order of priority. In fact I happened to visit a Spencer’s outlet in the city the very same day Maggi was banned and I saw their shelves brimming with their entire stock of Maggi out for grabs – stock clearance so that they salvage some losses perhaps – at our expense of course. Clearly we do not care about MSG or lead or other heavy metals because, as I read many writing on public platforms, we consume enough lead in our vegetables too (and hence it doesn’t matter?). And while that is extremely sad, any idea where our clean veggies and fruits go? You may often stumble upon them on trips abroad – imported from India – the sellers would proudly say. Why then is the reverse never true? Other countries do not send off all their good produce abroad at the cost of their native consumers. Perhaps because nobody takes their consumers for granted as much as we do. Perhaps because their consumers will reject a product that defaults on quality parameters while we won’t care. Perhaps they value their customers because their customers value themselves. And we clearly don’t. I think its time we start taking ourselves seriously, and valuing ourselves as consumers.

Instant Noodles
A gratifying bowl of Instant Noodles – stir fried with veggies, oyster sauce, eggs and wild mushrooms

P.S. The picture is not that of Maggi but of Wai Wai, another brand of instant noodles from Nepal that they have now started manufacturing in Sikkim as well. That’s not to say I presume they are safe to consume. Till the time our quality standards are enforced at par with International standards, till the time our manufacturers consciously sell identical units of their products in the domestic and International market, till the Indian consumer gets the respect due to him, I do not trust anything is safe to consume in India.

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