MDH, Everest Controversy Explained: Why The Popular Indian Masala Products Are Under The Scanner

MDH and Everest have come under the scanner of food authorities after the recent actions taken by Singapore and Hong Kong authorities

Popular spice brands MDH and Everest are reportedly being investigated by the food safety and standards authority of India (FSSAI). It comes after authorities in Singapore and Hong Kong imposed a ban on several spice-mixes of the two brands.

Both Everest and MDH have vast businesses in India and international markets. The standalone revenue of MDH and Everest was over Rs 2000 crore in the last few financial years. On its website, MDH claims it exports products to major countries across the world which include United States of America, Canada, United Kingdom, Europe, South East Asia, Japan, U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia. Similarly, Everest exports to over 65 countries.

With millions across the world consuming the products of the two brands, why have they suddenly come under the radar of India's top authorities?

MDH, Everest Ban Explained

Hong Kong's Centre for Food Safety (CFS) advised people to stop consuming four products of the two Indian brands on April 5. In a release, the authority said, "Samples of several kinds of prepackaged spice mix products were found to contain a pesticide, ethylene oxide. Members of the public should not consume the affected products. The trade should also stop using or selling the affected products immediately if they possess any of them."

The products are MDH's Madras Curry Powder, Sambhar Masala Mixed Masala Powder, Curry Powder Mixed Masala Powder and Everest's Fish Curry Masala. CFS has informed that vendors have been asked to withdraw the products from their shelves.

Following this action by Hong Kong, Singapore Food Agency (SFA) also ordered a recall of Everest's fish curry masala. The statement of SFA said, "The Centre for Food Safety in Hong Kong has issued a notification on the recall of Everest Fish Curry Masala from India due to the presence of ethylene oxide at levels exceeding permissible limit. As the implicated products were imported into Singapore, the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) has directed the importer, Sp Muthiah & Sons Pte. Ltd., to recall the products. The recall is ongoing."

While it's not clear whether the Indian products also contain the alleged cancer-causing chemical, the controversy over the products has sparked a major row. Reports suggest that India has sought information from both Singapore and Hong Kong about the action as part of its investigation into the brands.

It's not the first time quality concerns have been raised about packaged products. Last week, the government had instructed e-commerce sites to remove Bournvita from the health drink category. Moreover, a report alleged recently that Nestle's India products had higher sugar content than the products being sold in developed countries.

It remains to be seen whether the recent controversy over the products of two of the most popular brands leads to a regulatory action in India as well.

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