Nestle will destroy 400 million packets of its hugely popular Maggi noodles, following a ban imposed by India’s food safety regulator.
The company says it will take at least 40 days to destroy all the noodles.
India’s food safety regulator says tests have found Maggi “unsafe and hazardous” and has accused Nestle of failing to comply with food safety laws.
Nestle has 80% of India’s instant noodles market.
Nestle India has begun a massive logistical operation to source and destroy over 27,000 tonnes of Maggi across the country. The company has said that this is one of the largest ever recalls not only in its own history, but the entire food industry.
Further complicating matters is the fact that Nestle is not in possession of all the noodles earmarked to be destroyed.
The company says that 17,020 tonnes of Maggi are currently with distributors, retail outlets and consumers. They have begun buying back noodles by the carton in order to destroy them.
Once the Maggi is all collected, it will take thousands of truck trips to bring them to five private cement factories where they will be mixed with fuel and subjected to high temperature thermal destruction in kilns.
Nestle says that the current capacity is 700 tonnes a day across five facilities, meaning that it will take at least 40 days to destroy the whole stock.
Earlier this month, Nestle began withdrawing the Maggi brand from stores, after regulators said they found higher-than-allowed levels of lead in some packets.
Nestle’s global chief executive Paul Bulcke has asked to see the results of the laboratory tests and promised to return Maggi to store shelves soon.
Several states have also been testing the noodles for the chemical monosodium glutamate, widely known as MSG.
On 12 June, the Bombay High Court denied Nestle’s request for a stay of the nationwide ban on Maggi.
The court ruled that as the noodles are being withdrawn anyway “the question of granting stay… at this stage does not arise”.
However judges ordered the food authorities to file their responses to Nestle’s petition that the ban be completely revoked in time for a further court hearing on 30 June.
Nestle has argued that the tests that found lead are flawed and inaccurate. It says it has carried out its own tests on over 1,000 batches of Maggi noodles, plus commissioned tests at external labs on a further 600 batches.
“All results indicate that Maggi noodles are safe and well within the regulatory limits established in India,” the company said.
The instant noodles arrived in India in 1983 and can be found in corner shops across the country.