Was My Mother Wrong About MAGGI?

After almost five months of being shelved by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) and the Maharashtra Food and Drug Authority (FDA), India’s favourite two-minute noodles ‘MAGGI’ is back with a bang in the Indian market, and with TV advertisements of ‘mothers’ professing guaranty about its purity.

Nestle India, the makers of MAGGI Noodles, has been defending its noodles from the beginning and has even published a Q&A list on its website to allay consumer’s fears about the noodles. But, I am not convinced.

If ‘mothers cannot be wrong’ as claimed in the ‘MAGGI’ ad, even my mother ought to be right. I remember my mother restricting MAGGI to very-very-very rare treats. Despite its umami taste, she never allowed me to have it regularly.

The main culprits in her eyes were its components — refined wheat flour (maida) and unnaturally enhanced flavours. So today, I would put her fears to test and see ‘kya meri maa galat thi’.

  • Maida: Let us accept it. You cannot have maida-free noodles because it is the sticky gluten in the refined flour that gives elasticity to the dough, helping it rise and keep its shape. Dough made of 100 per cent whole wheat or oats can never give you noodles or pasta or bread.

So why this propaganda against maida?

Refined white flour or maida, as we call in India, is made from whole wheat grains by peeling off entire husk and bran, and then crushing the white grain. During the refining process, 14 different vitamins, 10 different minerals, and protein are lost from the whole wheat.

Finally, even the tiny bit of remaining nutrition in the remaining part of grain is chemically bleached out to give us that pure, white, virgin-looking noodles. So while it fills your tummy, it fails to gives anything substantial to the body.

Another reason why doctors are against maida consumption is that it creates a sticky “sludge” in your digestive tract, thereby clogging your internal pipeline. The result is quite evident. What happens when our sink gets clogged? It also encourages the growth of pathogenic bacteria and yeast (microflora) in your gut.

Thus, my mother’s first fear stands validated.

  • Unnaturally enhanced flavours – Here I believe that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t. My mother and a majority of other mothers of her generation were skeptic of ‘too good’ flavours. MAGGI and other fast food items like snack foods, chips, crackers and sauces contain flavor enhancer E635.

What is this E635? It is a mixture of disodium inosinate (IMP) and disodium guanylate (GMP) and is often used where a food already contains natural glutamates (as in meat extract) or added monosodium glutamate (MSG) (Source: Wikipedia). A mixture of 98% MSG and 2% E635 has four times the flavor enhancing power of monosodium glutamate (MSG) alone, according to a WHO report.

That explains the secret behind MAGGI’s irresistible taste. The Nestle website states that the level of glutamate in MAGGI Noodles is around 0.2 g/100 g. Although it claims that it is close to the average level of glutamate measured in the same portion size of tomatoes or peas, I am wary.

Studies on the dangers of such flavouring substances so far have given a clean chit, but who knows what the studies might reveal next. By then perhaps the damage might already have been done. So here, although not validated, I would support my mother again.

MAGGI Noodles will always be an occasional treat for my son, never a regular food. ‘Kyonki uski maa bhi kabhi galat nahi ho sakti’.






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