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Nestle pulls instant Maggi noodles from India over lead scare

Food giant Nestle has said it is removing its instant noodle brand, Maggi, from sale in India. Five Indian states have temporarily banned it for containing high levels of lead, but Nestle denies the product is unsafe.

Nestle India said it was removing Maggi noodles from sale throughout the country, while labeling concerns about the product as "unfounded."

Several Indian states have banned the instant noodles after tests revealed excess amounts of lead in its packets.

Maggi is one of Nestle's fastest-selling food items, with around 15 billion rupees ($240 million, 214 billion euros) in annual sales, which have plunged amid the scare. The product has long been market leader in India.

The tests also detected the chemical flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate, or MSG - not shown in the product's ingredient list. Nestle said no MSG was added to noodles sold in India, but that glutamate occurred naturally in other ingredients used.

The company said it had conducted tests on 125 million Maggi packets which showed "lead levels are well within the limits specified by food regulations and that Maggi noodles are safe to eat.

Despite the assertions, Nestle said it would withdraw the product regardless.

"The trust of our consumers and the safety of our products is our first priority," it said.

"Unfortunately, recent developments and unfounded concerns about the products have led to an environment of confusion for the consumer, to such an extent that we have decided to withdraw the product off the shelves, despite the product being safe."

jr/bk (AP, Reuters, dpa)