CERS exposes low nutrition levels in leading instant noodles brands

In-house laboratory tests of 15 brands at CERS revealed most health claims to be deceptive

Ahmedabad, 16th October 2012

The rapid permeation of instant noodles into Indian dietary habits, over the two decades, has been exponential and legendary. Today, instant noodles has become a staple in just about every child’s diet that discerning parents vainly try to get rid of, and also occasionally indulge in tINSTANT NOODLEShemselves. In view of the raging ‘instant noodles’ phenomenon, Consumer Education & Research Society (CERS), the nation’s leading consumer organization dedicated to protectingthe interests of the Indian consumer, recently tested and brought out shocking facts about the nutrition levels of 15 popular instant noodles brands across the country. In a series of tests conducted at CERS’ in-house laboratory that investigated 15 instant noodle brands for some important nutrition parameters.

The fifteen brands tested included brands like Maggi, Top Ramen, Knorr, Ching’s Secret, Sunfeast Yippee!, Foodles, Tasty Treat and Wai Wai X-press. The results were shocking. None of the brands were able to substantiate their tall claims of being healthy snacking option when interpreted against Food Standards Agency (FSA) of UK standards for fats and sodium. Some of the common findings for most of the samples tested included high level of sodium salts, significantly low fibre content, high amount of fats and several other shocking factors. The brands that claimed ‘Healthy’, ‘wholesome’, ‘enriched with proteins and iron’ and ‘full of fibre’, were refuted by the test findings as going way above the safe limit of several harmful elements. (Please see annexure for Key Findings)

The Indian market for instant noodle stands at a whopping 1000 crore. In a recent survey conducted by CERS it was concluded that most of the people consume instant noodles more than once in a fortnight. This led CERS to probe the claims made by some of the popular instant noodles brands in the market. Though there are no specific Indian Standards to check the level of nutrition when it comes to instant noodles, CERS conducted the tests for basic parameters that included total ash, moisture level, acid insoluble ash, fat, crude fibre, proteins, sodium, calcium, iron, carbohydrate, and energy. During these tests, the labeling information on each of the samples was checked against the regulations laid down by Food Safety and Standards (packaging & labeling) Regulations, 2011. Contrary to their claims of being a harmless snack, most of the instant noodles brands have emerged to be a dangerous choice in the present day stressful lifestyle.

Some of the brands like the Top Ramen Oat Noodles, Maggi Vegetable Multigrainz Noodles, etc. that prominently claimed to be relatively healthier than their counterparts through their advertisements, were actually fooling their customers in to eating noodles and harming their health. Instant noodles, while chiefly targeted at easily impressionable kids, are also now promoted across all age groups as a healthy snacking option. But the tests conducted by CERS clearly indicate that the ‘health’ quotient claimed by instant noodles brands is far from being true. As a matter of fact, high levels of sodium, fat and carbohydrates in these food products can lead to life-threatening conditions like cardiac disorders and Blood Pressure problems.

Through such initiatives CERS aims at alerting the Indian consumer about the reality of the instant noodles that they consume in such high quantity. CERS has recommended several actions through which the government can force the instant noodle manufacturers to improve their product and safeguard the health of the consumers. Some of these recommendations include suggestions like the Food Safety and Standards authorities take note of the salt minimization efforts put forth by UK FSA and compel manufacturers to reduce the sodium levels. The consumer body has also suggested stringent norms for packaging wherein manufacturers highlight the content of their products explicitly making it easier for the consumer to notice. Citing the major role played by the misleading advertisements of instant noodles, CERS has recommended that Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) implement stricter conditions forcing manufacturers to refrain from making false claims to innocent consumers. The recommendations are also directed towards manufacturers, asking them to reduce the level of harmful elements like sodium and increase the amount of nutritional elements like calcium and iron.

As a norm, CERS had sent out the results of each brand to its respective manufacturer seeking clarification about the alarming results. However, none of the manufacturers responded to the queries raised by CERS. The complete story with details of claims made by the brands and the actual facts is published in Insight- The Consumer Magazine, September-October 2012 issue. Being one of the nation’s foremost consumer bodies, CERS undertook these tests to highlight the extent to which leading brands of instant noodles manufacturers have misled its consumers through tall claims and celebrity endorsements, at the cost of their health and well-being.

For more information please contact Ms. Pritee Shah (O) 079 -27489945/46

7 Facts about Instant Noodles

  1. Noodles are junk food with little nutrition value in spite of all the health claims. Avoid if you can. If you cannot, reduce consumption.
  2. Check the shelf life. It varies from brand to brand.
  3. Increase the protein value of the noodles by adding an egg or a small amount of soy products such as tofu or soya nuggets. Add vegetables and fruits either for garnishing or as an accompaniment.
  4. Majority of salt is added to noodles through the seasoning supplied in sachets. So reduce the sodium content by using the minimum amount of seasoning, preferably half of the sachets.
  5. Instant noodle soup is often high in salt; limit its consumption to avoid excess intake.
  6. Instant noodles can serve as breakfast or evening snacks but not as main meals. Limit the consumption to a maximum of once in a week or ten days.
  7. Pregnant women and infants (below 12 months) must avoid consumption of instant noodles containing monosodium glutamate (MSG) as flavor enhancer (INS 621). So watch out for MSG or INS 621 in the list of ingredients given on the packet.

Key Findings

• All 15 brands tested in our in-house laboratory were found to be high in sodium content, in the range of 821mg/100g. the UK FSA Standards consider 130 to 600mg/100g as acceptable. Knorr Soupy Noodles contained the highest sodium content of 1943 mg/100g and was the costliest. The lowest sodium content was recorded inMaggi Meri Masala 821 mg/100g.

• Only 5 – Ching’s Secret Schezwan Instant Noodles, Knorr Soupy Noodles, Tasty Treat New Instant Schezwan Noodles, Tasty Treat Multigrain Noodles and Smith & Jones Masala Noodles – mentioned the amount of sodium. [We all know that sodium, commonly known as salt (sodium chloride) is necessary, but a high amount can lead to such undesirable effects as hypertension, linked to stroke and heart diseases.]

• The fat content in almost all the brands was on the higher side, in the range of 14.7 to 18.4 per cent. AS per UK FSA, 3 to 20g/100g of fat is considered acceptable. Fat content was highest in Foodles from Horlicks at 18.4 g/100g and the lowest in Maggi Meri Masala at 14.7 g/100g. In Maggi New Vegetable Atta Noodles the fat was found to be 17 per cent against 13.4 claimed and in Maggi Vegetable Multigrainz Noodles it was 16.1 instead of the labeled value of 13.9 per cent. [If the amount of fat is more, it will contribute to a higher calorie value (energy). Consumption of high fat foods may result in obesity and risk of heart diseases and Type 2 diabetes.]

• Maggi Meri Masala is our ‘Best Buy’ as it revealed the lowest amount of fat and sodium, and the highest amount of proteins.

• Top Ramen Oat Noodles contained less than 6.8 per cent of oat fibre and about 91 per cent of wheat flour. Even Tasty Treat Multigrain Noodles showed about 72 per cent and Maggi Vegetable Multigrainz Noodles 82 per cent of wheat flour, with the rest containing ragi, rice, jowar and corn. So these brands’ claim of having other flour, implying better nutrition benefits, was not justified.

• Wai Wai X-press Instant Noodles Jain Masala and Wai Wai X-press Instant Noodles Masala Delight did not contain iron as claimed. They recorded 2.5mg and 2.6mg, respectively, against the labeled 7mg/100mg.

• The shelf life of noodles varied from brand to brand, ranging from 6 to 12 months.

• The average net weight of two brands – Top Ramen Super Noodles Masala and Tasty Treat Multigrain Noodles – was found to be less than the net weight declared.

• The mandatory label declaration of the food additives used in the product was missing in three brands – Tasty Treat New Instant Schezwan Noodles, Foodles from Horlicks, and Top Ramen Super Masala.

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