The Maggi controversy generated public sentiment that varied from outrage to apathy (and nostalgia!). Shockingly, the real issue this incident points to has been sidelined and not given the same kind of attention. We don’t know whether Nestle was adding lead to the products, but the contaminant was finding it’s way into the product somehow. No denying that Nestle has a responsibility to ensure that none of their products should have any contaminants or even traces of any substances that are questionable (though the latter is wishful thinking). But the fact is that contaminants are all around us, if not through Maggi, we are taking them in through most things we eat and drink, including water, and through the air we breathe.
What the nation should be “demanding” instead of asking is transparency in our food production systems – what are the levels of heavy metals and chemicals in our ecosystems, what the government is doing to address them, do our economic and growth policies consider environmental impact and how do they account for them?
In the larger scheme of things, there is only one answer folks. And that is to clean up our ecosystem.
A good start would be to stop polluting it. This doesn’t mean stopping industries and going back to living in caves. The focus needs to be on closed loop and end to end systems. At I Say Organic, by virtue of what we do, we’re always writing about benefits of organic. In light of this issue, do we even need to make any other justification? We can argue against the claims that organic can’t feed the world etc, but is that even important to argue when the survival of our species is at stake? It might sound gloomy, but is it not a real threat? The Nestle story was trending for so long, but the real issue just got hidden somewhere. Perhaps it’s too gloomy? Or maybe we’ve become used to hearing about it too often and it doesn’t remain sensational enough?
If a country fails to ensure safe food, water and air for its citizens, does GDP matter?
Organic farming is an integral part of the solution. We need to break away from the aura around the word organic and mainstream it.
Organic is not a novelty, it’s an age old practice of growing nutritious food in harmony with nature. We all have to do it together – businesses, consumers, and the government.
Companies, big or small, retailers or manufacturers, have to hold themselves accountable for anything pertaining to food safety. Any successful new company is built on ensuring that it delivers what it’s customers expect from it. For example, we know that authenticity is something that the Indian consumer is skeptical of. So, it is a part of our company’s dna to ensure we do everything possible to vet the farmers we work with, over and above certification, through regular field visits, conducting lab tests on products, and maintaining transparency.
As companies grow, and become corporations, they shouldn’t compromise on accountability regardless of their size or “power”, and that is what we as consumers need to demand for.
In the wake of this controversy, while we urge corporations to make a commitment to ensuring that they sell only what they portray – no misleading advertising, no hidden ingredients, and take responsibility to ensure food safety (and no contamination). At the same time, consumers must also ensure for themselves and their families, that what they are purchasing is not doing anything other than nourishing their bodies. Daily decisions will go a long way in driving long-term change.