Mumbai : As the controversy over the presence of lead and monosodium glutamate in Nestle India’s Maggi noodles widens, some legal experts are clear about two things: the company may face litigation in many states and attempts to involve celebrities who endorsed the brand are aimed at sensationalising the matter.
“The law is clear and there is prima-facie evidence that there is a violation of law of having certain content in food products beyond permissible limits,” said Ramesh Vaidyanathan, founder and managing partner of Advaya Legal. “Since this is a state subject, the prosecution will take place in many states and this is a criminal offense under the FDA regulations.”
While many states have tested or are testing the product, legal experts say those who endorsed the brand, including actress Madhuri Dixit, should not be held responsible. “The focus should be on the product and the company, but by involving celebrities in this serious issue we are diverting focus,” said Hitesh Jain, a senior partner at ALMT Legal. “If charges are proved, consumers can file a suit for claiming damages and the government or consumer associations can file a case of product liability to recall those products.”
The onus of proving the quality and claims should be on the company and not on the celebrities, said Prem Rajani, managing partner of law firm Rajani, Singhania & Partners. “Madhuri Dixit also endorses toothbrush brand Oral-B. If anything goes wrong while while a child is using it, can she be blamed for it? Celebrities cannot be held liable. Globally, endorsement contracts specify clauses to safeguard the ambassadors. Indian contracts, however, are gradually becoming sensitive to these issues.”
However, Vaidyanathan said that when celebrities come on board to endorse a brand, they add credibility and trust and are also paid large sums. Celebrities should know a product before they endorse it.