Saturday, June 6, 2015

Now Its Time That You Should Know More About Lead, MSG and Other Substances in Your Foods!

Being a chemical engineer, I do not necessarily agree with all those who try to induce fear about materials and processes that we encounter in our day to day lives now.

Basically I believe that all materials and substances as available in this world as created by the divine creators are useful and has some purpose.

In essence, that assumes the notion that everything is good.

What is bad in this good is the way and manner in which we use and manage these good things around us. When we mismanage materials and substances, they can turn to become bad for us.

That is why the saints of the old has warned us this way: In excess, even amrit is poison! [In Hindu mythology, amrit is the potion drink of the gods that give them immortality!]

So, if you relish eating and drinking something, there need not be too much worry so long as you do it wisely. In fact, your worries could do more harm to you than what you eat and drink!

But the key here is your wisdom. While you use substances and materials for eating, drinking or for any other purpose, your actions have to be done wisely. You and your fellows will face problems when you do things stupidly or foolishly! You should not do stupid things like destroying or burning your home just for evicting a rat that had gone inside it!

Why I have written this much is because I find constant efforts by some people to induce fear and anxieties among people, in the guise of creating awareness. Making the common people fearful and anxious is a trick used by some people for gaining some advantage for themselves! 

If you go to a non professional doctor who doesnot give any importance to professional ethics, there is all likelihood that the doctor may give such medical descriptions about your health conditions that you become perpetually worried about it. Eventually you may become a perpetual visitor to the doctors and the hospitals divesting a good part of your incomes! 

The media men and women too might bombard you with lots of inconclusive information and opinions that could make you totally confused, scared and anxious. Not all people have the capacity to isolate and process facts from falsehoods or digest falsehoods and misinformation with a pinch of salt!

Having said that, I cannot not however, agree to the superiority of some humans who assert their right of domination over others whom they view as lesser mortals. Efforts of democratically elected governmental representatives to force their food habits and beliefs on others is one such thing which I consider as not commensurate with modern civilization. The savages of the past believed might is right. But modern human civilization does not endorse that. Hence, acts and thoughts similar to that of savages emerging in a civilized society, however negligible it might be, cannot be considered as palatable to any civilized mind.

I believe in the democratic right of all governments to make rules and regulations and administer them for the good of the people at large. But such rules and regulations when done whimsically and arbitrarily without the application of mind cannot be acceptable as coming from a civilized government. 

Democratic governments and the elected representatives of people have the responsibility to give convincing answers to the citizens about their acts. But when they show arbitrariness of dictatorship, civilized citizens need to worry about their society's future!

In my country, one state in the south, all of a sudden banned a section of the hotels from serving alcoholic bewerages. The arbitrariness of their decision was too obviously reflecting the vested interests behind such a governmental action. The elected representatives could not explain the logic of their acts. Now those vested interest representatives are facing the heat of public anger and investigations.

In a similar manner, some other public representatives are forcing their own beliefs on the vast majority of people with respect to food habits. Some do not like beef and meat, some do not like eggs and they want others to follow suit. Will their acts sustain?

Now it is this processed food made by a multinational food company called Nestle in the name of Maggi. The controversy started a couple of days ago and the political strategy of bans followed without proper explanations or clarifications from the governmental authorities. Interestingly, the actions of the governments are obviously reflecting their political interests. 

But what is this controversy all about? The media while bombarding the news about the bad luck of the Swiss company Nestle, is not honest enough to disclose the truths. They too do not follow any professional ethics in this country. And that should be a point of worry for the thinking people.

But information is not anybody's monopoly in this age of the internet. You can know much and make your own conclusions.

The controversy is about the concentration of two substances in the Maggi noodles which is essentially a dried and easily cookable thread like food material made of wheat flour. Together with the pouch of the cookable noodle, it has a mix of tastemaker in another pouch which contains salt, chilli and other substances for making the noodles tasty to eat.

Now about the controversial ingrediants. One is called the glutamate or more precisely, Mono Sodium Glutamate or MSG. It is an organic salt which is found in many natural food items like tomatoes, cheese, mushrooms, etc. It is also manufactured by chemical processes. 

Interestingly it is entirely produced from vegetable raw materials such as starch. (I suggest the readers to find more about the production and uses of MSG as given in the website of the International Starch Institute of Denmark (the least corrupt country in the world!)  

Mono Sodium Glutamate has been in use in the world for at least a century now. It is a food additive approved by many nations and is classified in the European classification of food additives (the E-number) . Though there are some isolated research studies which describes some not so serious adverse effects of MSG when consumed exceeding some limits, such reports remain as incoclusive. It is an approved taste enhancer for various kinds of foods in most countries. 

Any food which is added with tomatoes or cheese or mushroom can test positively for MSG. As a precautionary directive, MSG levels as acceptable for common use in foods have been notified by some countries. Essentially, there is no need for any one to get panic about this taste enhancer as it is safer that common salt for normal use. User descretion is always needed when people consume food and bewerages. Any food material in excess may be injurious to health. For that matter, even common salt is injurious when it is added beyond certain limits in food.

The next controversy is about lead (Chemically, Plumbum or Pb). There is no way that Nestle would add any lead salt or substance knowingly to their noodles. Because, lead does not have any role in the manufacturing process for making noodles. But then from where this lead coming from in Maggi noodles? The authorities who have licenced Maggi and Nestle need to explain this.

In reality, lead comes into our water and food from every where. Our air, water and cereals all in India contains lead in small quantities. Nestle or any other manufacturer is not adding any lead for making their products. Because our authorities and public fail to manage air, water and land pollution in a pragmatic manner, water and food as obtained in India has a higher level of lead content as compared to international standards. For example, drinking water and bottled mineral water in India has  lead content in it. Just because the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) publish a detailed wish list of quality standards for foods and drinks that are to be made and sold in India, the quality of food and drinks as available in India is not going to become superior! 

Water in many cities come to home and industry through metallic or plastic pipes. All these pipes and fittings contain some lead and from it the water can have some small quantity in parts per million levels. 

The atmosphere gets lead oxides from the burning of coal in power plants and by humans. 

Substantial quantities of lead comes from many of our paints that we use in our homes.

From all these, lead is absorbed by the plants including wheat. So wheat flour (atta or maida) can have some lead naturally in it.

And there is no chemical process by which this lead from wheat flour or water could be removed. 

In reality, the lead that Maggi contains is naturally occuring from the raw materials that they procure from Indian sources!

When this is the reality, is the knee jerk action of the Indian authorities justifiable? I doubt.

It is time that the authorities explain things properly.

Otherwise, this too should be guaged as a consequence of vested interests playing.

And that is not a good thing for a civilized society! 

When the corruption perception index of India remains at a shameful level, the actions done by the Indian authorities are not likely to be viewed as something logical, reasonable or justifiable unless the authorities show the wisdom to make things more transparent and clear.

If it is not, India is not going to be a favorable destination for business and industry even when the top authorities publicly keep desiring otherwise.


  1. I believe that only freshly cooked food is best to consume. The refrigerated food or the caned food I would avoid the most

    1. No food as commonly available in the Indian market in the raw form for eating after home cooking can be considered safe as they all contain varying levels of pesticides, bacteria and disease causing germs from cross contamination from human and animal sources, etc. If the food regulatory authorities under the instructions of the political leadership were to take similar actions such as what they did on Nestle's Maggi, then perhaps the people of India would starve to death. No doubt, they would not do such a misadventure because that would not yield them any personal advantage as is expected from a big corporate. The best policy for individuals is to use their common sense and general safeguards while they procure and use food items regardless of it being processed or raw. There is absolutely no reason for getting panic about possible microcontaminants whose presence and after effects are still matters of scientific debate. No one is going to live for ever by following the opinions of the scientific community or the other opinion makers!
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