Nestle pulls Maggi noodles from India stores amid lead crisis

Packets of Nestle's Maggi instant noodles are seen on display at a grocery store in Mumbai, India, on June 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Packets of Nestle's Maggi instant noodles are seen on display at a grocery store in Mumbai, India, on June 4, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

NEW DELHI (BLOOMBERG) - Nestle India Ltd will withdraw its Maggi noodles from stores amid "unfounded concerns" in the country that they may contain high levels of lead and chemicals.

The local unit of the Vevey, Switzerland-based food maker said it has decided to pull the noodles from the shelves despite the products "being safe", the company said in a June 5 statement.

Nestle India's shares have fallen by 12 per cent in the last two days after it said Wednesday authorities are conducting tests on its products. A routine test on a pack from a small town supermarket found the noodles' seasoning had too much lead, about 7 times permissible limits.

"Unfortunately, recent developments and unfounded concerns about the product have led to an environment of confusion for the consumer," Nestle said in the statement, adding that the noodles will be back in the market when the current situation is clarified.

Officials in at least six states have ordered independent testing of the products. Criminal complaints were filed against the company and its Bollywood star ambassadors, while India's food minister said he would consider class-action suits.

Major retail chains including Future Group and Wal-Mart Stores as well as the army's canteens have all temporarily suspended Maggi sales.