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Maggi Is No News

June 3, 2015

Any tinned food containing preservatives and chemical colours is harmful to our health. And given that Ajinomoto (Mono Sodium Glutamate)  (MSG) is banned in countries like Singapore, UK, US, Japan and China (as a flavour/taste enhancer), I find it unbelievable that it has taken India this long to ban one of popular MSG based processed food marketed by a renowned multinational. MSG/Ajinomoto is sold like sachet shampoos all across India in petty shops in small packets for as less as Re1/.  So why single out Maggi after all. I don’t know what our government is going to do. My suggestion would be to ban Ajinomoto/MSG in its direct avatar (form) which is potentially most damaging.

I do use Ajinomoto sparingly like once in a month, no more (mostly in Veg Fried Rice and/or in Veg Noodles).  Never more than a tsp for 2-3 cups of rice. I don’t however believe restaurants may show restraint when it comes to the usage of MSG. Its also true Ajinomoto enhances food taste. This is the reason I hesitate eating outside – and advise my son to avoid (which he rarely listens to).

http://www.ndtv.com/india-news/maggi-fails-test-in-delhi-results-say-lead-content-high-unsafe-for-consumtion-768105

We also switched over to low-sodium salt years back. So I really find outside/restaurant food too very salty to my taste.

When my son was younger, I used to take him for swimming regularly. There we ladies would be chatting as the children swam. One boy would be dragged by his mother whimpering all the way and dumped into the pool. He was clearly overweight and only 7 years old. So some women took the boy’s mother aside and asked her to spare the poor frightened lad.

This is what she told us:

The boy needed to swim 3 hours every morning and evening as per doctor’s advice.

From his very first year as an infant, the boy was addicted to Maggi noodles.

The kid had been a poor eater and so the parents tried Maggi with him to which he readily took. Ever since Maggi noodles became his staple diet.

On joining school, Maggi was what he had for breakfast, lunch & dinner mostly.

The parents, even though were literates and well-off, did not think much about it.

The boy was also going easy on carbonated drinks like Pepsi and Coke. He drank them instead of water.

One day the boy fainted and was rushed to a hospital.

The boy was put in ICU.

He had elevated blood pressure, sugar and cholesterol levels for his age. All vital statistics had zoomed to over 300.

The boy remained critical for weeks. There was initially no hope he would survive.

After spending months in the hospital recuperating and being fed on a very strict diet, the boy lost significant weight (even after which he was plump).

He was discharged with strong advice to his parents to monitor his physical activity like swimming.

Swimming was the mandatory exercise prescribed for the boy. 6-8 hours swimming was compulsory every single day.

The mother said, the boy’s BP and sugar shot up even if he drank a glass of plain water for months after the discharge. The parents were in a fix. The boy was receiving insulin shots. He continued to remain obese.

Pulling him out of a very popular convent school that I don’t want to name for an year atleast, the parents put him on a strict regimen of physical workouts and sports activities and swimming as advised by specialists.

Curiously no drug was prescribed for the boy except for insulin once he was discharged from the hospital. Only hectic physical activity which I thought was excellent. Even the insulin the parents hoped would one day stop.

The diet followed was so bland and insipid, boiled many times over, mostly vegetables – unsalted and not hot or spicy. Vegetable juices were the only drinks allowed. Even the citric based fruits and yoghurt were taken off the boy’s menu. No wonder he got cranky given the child he was.

But it worked – the boy’s BP had come down to around 150 and day by day he was improving.

The mother had one more child to take care who she sent to hostel to take complete charge of their pathetic son whose life hung in balance.

Throughout she blamed herself and admitted the doctors were very cross with her and her husband. The woman held herself responsible for her young son’s state of health but what’s the use.

I hope and pray by now the boy (who must be over 15 now) is totally fine and has had a normal adoloscence like his peers.

It was a lesson not only to the parents, but to all visitors by the pool side. Even the children listened to the story and felt bad. They encouraged the child to take to swimming with a heart. They started being playful with him.

You only have to go by any swimming pool in Chennai by the summers, you can see a lot of children with health issues in such an young age that it will break your heart. Those under Autism spectrum, Dyslexic, ADHD just to name a few (who are advised swimming for better eye-hand coordination as the first ever corrective step). Rare are though the cases with elevated BP or sugar levels which come as most shocking. Because any learning disability occurs by birth. Whereas lifestyle conditions are man-made. Except for type-1 diabetes which is genetic its unforgivable that parents should let their young children suffer lifestyle conditions like high blood pressure/sugar so early in their lives.

In my son’s college physicals last year, 3 boys out of 40 were found to be with raised blood pleasure levels. Lack of physical exercise and high intake of salt are the reasons. Clearly many teenagers today are couch potatoes who don’t want to get under the sun for any physical activity.

Maggi is still my emergency food – not denying. Like once in 2-3 months, if I return home hungry after shopping etc, it comes in handy. If my son is studying late and if friends turn up when nothing is at home, it helps. Nothing more.

What is Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)? Why is Ajinomoto deemed harmful?

Ajinomoto is made from fermented sugarcane and tapioca extracts. It is a synthetic salt, Japanese by origin. Chinese use ajinomoto extensively in their cooking to no harm. However more than nominal use of ajinomoto seems to give giddiness to most others. Ajinomoto must NOT be consumed by pregnant women or lactating mothers or infants under 1 year strictly as even the label cautions. Ajinomoto is actually the brand name of MSG and like Xerox has become synonymous with photocopying, the brand has come to represent MSG in general.

Ajinomoto may be used along with regular salt or with reduced salt levels.

I always felt like 1 packet of Maggi equals 10 tsp of salt: just an intuition without any concrete evidence. This is how I discouraged my son in his younger years from the packet noodles. The same way I tell him 1 Pepsi bottle is equal to 20 tsp of sugar. It helps – he has iced tea mostly in restaurants. 

We strictly do not buy/stock/consume aerated drinks in our home. I am skeptical about even fruit drink concentrates like ‘Tang’ for instance. And Nescafe, instant coffee. In short anything instant or processed is suspect. Maggi cup noodles – not worthy of even commenting. But this is what our airport and railway station bunks have to offer to hungry passengers.

You can consume direct sugar instead of the saccharine or aspartame. The known devil, you may trust:

http://aspartame.mercola.com/

Same holds true for good old butter vs margarine, the most unhealthy transfat that has quietly crept into our lives. Margarine is the basic ingredient of all baked eats & confectioneries.

http://wellnessmama.com/2193/never-eat-vegetable-oil/

Any food label that lists class 1 or 2 or whatever of so-called permitted emulsifiers and preservatives is toxic basically.

In my blog posts I have always discouraged restaurant food in general. I have said in many of my posts how a combination of Maggi noodles and Lays Chips and Pepsi will spell disaster for future Indian generations. Indian children are born with a lot of birth defects of late. Out of 3 married couples only one is able to conceive normally these days without reproductive assistance. Urban fertility rate has dropped low like anything among us. Its a very scary scenario.

Even Hakka plain noodles I used to buy regularly has gone very waxy in last few years. So I get lots of plain noodles packets from Qatar for our use. I make veggie noodles after rinsing it many times in plain water trying to wash off the wax coating.

Make it everytime restaurant style at home. Less oil this way. Not more than 1/4 stp of ajinomoto.

I was shocked to see a big packet of ajinomoto in my maid’s shopping bag once. When I asked her she said, it enhanced the sambhar and subzi taste enormously. After I told her about the swimming pool boy, she swore she wouldn’t buy it again. What is wrong with plain salt. This is the way we have always cooked. What can be the reason to add ajinomoto to our food in recent times.

I use plain rock salt while grinding the idli batter. Use it alternately along with low-sodium salt even in everyday cooking. Plain rock salt has no iodine added. But it does not come polished off with other minerals either. Including plain rock salt along with iodized free flow salt and low-sodium salt is a must to balance the salt intake in our food.

I live in a middle-class locality where the streets off us are populated by the lower middle-class families with men working as drivers, carpenters, etc. The newly upward mobile, they are sending their children to inexpensive English matric schools that have sprung up like mushrooms on a rainy day. Maggi is a fashion for these folks. Their new found affordability compels them to get their children what they think is ‘cool.’ Maggi is sadly associated with the middle-class. Many, I understand, give their children the Maggi noodles for breakfast or lunch or evening tiffin.

Gone are the days when mothers used to make for their kids returning from school namkeens and other snacks like bondas, pakoras etc with evening cup of milk. The lazy housewife as well as arrogant working woman of India both have found Maggi to be an easy escape from dreary kitchen work so they can either watch the tv soaps in peace or mint a few more currency notes saving time.

When was the last time I made murukkus for my son myself. What about Kozhukattais. All these have been consigned to mere festive cooking.

Not only Maggi noodles even the Knorr soups are too very salty and seem to have high levels of MSG.

Until very recently, the manual labour population of India that came from lowest rungs of our society used to consume a very healthy diet of pulses, for instance, for breakfast consisting of Ragi, Jowar, Bajra etc. My maid’s family fed on cereals and pulses only rather than even rice as they worked in the farms. So the poorest of the country used to be able-bodied and free of any illnesses. However Maggi and Pepsi have penetrated the rural backward areas of India to such an extent that for the impoverished of our villages its like a blessing of sorts; Maggi promises easiest and quickest hunger-relief. Its finger-licking yummy. Its chick and cheap – urban signature. Biryani joints have sprung up overnight and kebab corners are something you can see everywhere today. Healthy, hygienic food is a rarity these days. Samosas deep-fried in recycled oil is the reason for increased cases of cancer. What is shawarma.  The arab grilled meat is now very popular even in Chennai – but how many know that the roadside foodstalls use chicken 3 days old dipped in vinegar to make you the yummiest arab barbecue grill that you have come to love.

Are KFC, Subway and Creme Center any better. Or even Pizza Hut. Try their salads/veggie toppings. You can taste the vinegar that gives away the age of the capsicum/tomato/onions. The workers admit privately they keep the cut vegetables dipped in vinegar for extended shelf life. I found even the french fries in Creme center to be sour -the vinegar could not obviously be washed off the potato strips before being deep-fried. Just imagine all this going into your stomach on everyday basis. So is food in expensive, fancy upscale and/or branded chain of restaurants including the inter-continental any safer than the street hawkers’?

A restaurateur bared his conscience on hotel (restaurant) food in a private Tamil tv channel once. He confessed to adulteration and contamination in food without which he said it was impossible to run the restaurant business. The supply chain needed to be fed continuously and for this stocking of food/meat for days in advance was inevitable. Soaking in vinegar of both the veggies & meat was regular practice that even the 5 star kitchens could not do without. The man’s conscience would not let him carry on so he quit. I am still searching for the video clipping. Meantime I am linking here a Vijai TV debate on Home food Vs. Restaurant food.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBi-C3YokUI

Restaurants in the city, I get it, use ajinomoto generously. There is hardly any food quality control or competent food regulatory authority in India. From idlis and sambhar to biryani and parathas to paneer gravies and kadai vegetables and chicken tikka masala, NO restaurant/hotel food item in India today is MSG free. This is the sad horrible truth. 

Because of years of low consumption of sugar & salt in my home, I cannot easily digest restaurant food in India. If I eat out, within 30 minutes I feel like fainting. The ajinomoto immediately mixes in my bloodstream and makes me feel dizzy. I can feel the blood rushing to my head, salt content in blood shooting up. May be because of my age. And I am very finicky when it comes to food. So nothing is readily agreeable with me. But its not just me, many of my friends tell me they experience giddiness when they eat in restaurants. Wedding feasts I am unable to enjoy at all because even as I eat I know and can identify the familiar and very slight tinge of ajinomoto in almost every dish in the lavish spread.

Ajinomoto is not restricted to mere Maggi noodles packet in India. It is omnipresent in every nook and corner of the nation, in every platter, in every restaurant and in middle-class homes, playing with the lives of thousands of young men and women in their (re)productive age. The worst criminals are restaurateurs and hoteliers and even roadside foodstall owners who indiscriminately add MSG (Ajinomoto) to their dishes to enhance the taste of their cuisine. Wedding caterers are not far behind.

Consumed with the sugary carbonated drinks like Pepsi and Coke, imagine what a major health issue we have brewing in India. Heart disease is like an epidemic, it gets you in your 30s now jumping decades – and combined with stress and elevated BP and sugar levels, our youngsters are virtual ticking time bombs ready to explode anytime… Such a sad state of affairs.

My cousin is married for 4 years. He and his wife got a 11 pm appointment to meet a gynaec/infertility specialist in the city. They finally finished their consultation by 2 am I believe and still there were young couples waiting in the corridors. And this is one single infertility clinic I am talking about in the metro that boasts of hundreds of others. This is the current state of our young people. Infertility is ‘in’ in India – in a big way. Ask any qualified physician in the city.

So what is the reason?

I came across this shocking case about Maggi. A couple had 2 daughters aged 13 and 11. The younger one matured first and the elder one showed no signs. On ‘advice’ of neighbours the mother made Maggi noodles for the elder one for a continuous 10 days after which she got her first periods. We in our school days used to do it with ‘Rasna’ – the concentrated fruit drink. If we girls should have periods fear during exams, to advance it we used to drink ‘Rasna’ on empty stomach for a week. That way we would be free of periods nightmare during exam times. It used to be a joke in our younger days but now I can realize how harmful it is. Atleast we did not resort to pills in those days.

Women hitting menopause in their 20s is also happening in India these days.

http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/New-scare-for-urban-women-Menopause-in-20s/articleshow/19312613.cms

Eat sensibly – this is what I can tell GenNext. I and my friends did not wait for the government ban on Maggi. We banished it long back from our kitchens – like some 10-20 years ago.

Last year I got the Suffola and Horlicks Masala Oats – both I and my husband have oats for breakfast at times. We found that it was too salty so checked out the ingredients. There was no mention of MSG but some permitted flavours and additives were listed. I immediately put the remaining packets of the Masala oats into trash – did not even want to pass it on to someone.

One thing we have to get in our minds: that it is not possible to manufacture processed food without fortifying it with synthetic flavours and additives/preservatives and chemical colours. This is what that makes restaurant food attractive and the home food not so very.

Even Soya chunks and Tofu are GM food. They have the capacity to alter our natural metabolism and thus our brain functions.

I have said this before in my blog somewhere: our Malaysian chinese friend used to scrub his jeep clean with Pepsi always. And one more friend’s wife worked for the Coke factory. She would say, in a big tank of coca cola, they would drop just a single crystal of a chemical compound of sugar to sweeten up the thousands of gallons of the fizzy drink. Just imagine what the crystal must contain. She quit the company and the carbonated drink at the same time – which is a big thing for Malaysians who consume aerated drinks like tap water normally.

*******************

PS:

Think of the damage to Nestle shareholders 🙂 Sensex never tanked as many points in straight 2 days since Modi took over, as it did just now I guess!

In my opinion normal/regular Indian food is double ok. Even the bread loaf you may get is baked with bromide mostly. Unless its whole wheat 100%, you cannot be certain about the maida (refined flour percentage)which could be anywhere upto 70% including in brown bread. No desi food is as harmful as foreign/western food. Indian cooking ways over direct fire are pretty harmless compared to barbecuing (with side-effect from carcinogens) and baking (of very refined flour that sticks easily to your arteries). Desi is desi.

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