Top Ramen noodle-maker Indo Nissin did not receive any order from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) to withdraw the product from the market, but is doing so voluntarily, said a company official on Tuesday.
"We don't have any order from FSSAI to withdraw (Top Ramen), you can check FSSAI website. We want to clarify that there is no official order from FSSAI to withdraw the product," said Gautam Sharma, managing director, Indo Nissin.
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"This whole withdrawal is on voluntary basis because of confusion of advisories," said Sharma.
Karnataka state food safety and standards joint director Shiva Kumar said: "We have not received any communication from FSSAI about Top Ramen, but like all other instant noodles products, it is also being tested."
However, on Monday Indo Nissin made a statement that Top Ramen is being withdrawn because of a 'request' from the regulator and as a mark of respect for the regulator.
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"On June 8, FSSAI had come out with the advisory on product safety testing of all instant noodle products in India. At that time, we had sought clarification from FSSAI since Top Ramen product approval is pending with the regulator," said Sharma in the statement on Monday.
"They (FSSAI) have requested us to withdraw the product until they give the product approval. We hope to get the approval soon from FSSAI and be back in the market providing safe and affordable food products as we have done for over 24 years," he added.
The FSSAI is yet to give the product approval for Top Ramen applied in 2013.
After the application, Indo Nissin contacted the FSSAI a couple of times more, but did not receive any information from FSSAI at all, said Sharma.
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"It is a proprietary product; there is some relaxation for proprietary products. There are no clear cut boundaries or markings. They can apply and go ahead (offer the product in market). The risk assessment is done by the regulator (FSSAI) within one year," added Kumar.
In Top Ramen's case, the product approval is yet to be issued despite the one-year limit, within which risk assessment should be done, has passed by a year ago itself.
"All existing players having licences under the old act can do the business," said Sharma, citing an advisory issued on August 8, 2012, for continuing Top Ramen sales without the approval.
"Since we do not have product approval, this is the reason we are confused what to do. We had meeting with FSSAI authorities also, we wanted clarity, we are not able to get it," said Sharma.
Indo Nissin has no plans to destroy the withdrawn stocks like Nestle did but store them in its warehouses and wait for FSSAI directives.
The company received notices for Top Ramen samples being picked up by regulators in most of the states for testing.
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"Many Top Ramen samples have been tested by various state FDAs across India; only in two cases, a slightly higher lead level has been found in the tastemaker. We are meeting the state FDAs and sharing our test results with them as well as seeking a retest," added Sharma.
Indo Nissin is withdrawing only Top Ramen but seeking advice about 15 other products in its portfolio. According to rules, each product has to procure its own approval flavour wise, added Sharma.