Indian cities simply woke up one fine day to find their worst fears come true— Maggi noodles, the nation’s favorite brunch, crunch and all-day meal is no longer safe to eat! Did it come as a shock? What I find shocking is the response I have been following, coming right from the celebrity bandwagon and their limited knowledge about maggi noodles, or even showing any responsibility over endorsing a product. The advertisement industry for over a decade has seen a bombardment of sport stars, more stars and bollywood actors on different TV channels— all busy endorsing some product or the other!
While India has criticized cricket stars in the past for appearing in more number of ads compared to cricket matches, the maggi row opens the question of credibility and responsibility of ‘stardom’ like never before! The last time I heard India going bonkers over a brand was with Kapil Dev endorsing ‘Colgate’ where the name itself meant toothpaste for many in rural and urban India who woke up to colgate their teeth every morning.
The Food Safety & Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) banned the sale of Maggi noodles on June 5, after Maggi test results confirmed that the noodles contained lead(upto 7 times more than permissible limits: 17.2 parts per million (ppm) while permissible limit of lead ranges between 0.01 ppm and 2.5 ppm).) and flavour enhancer monosodium glutamate in excess . However, to be fair, Nestle India has disputed it and the Mumbai High Court has allowed the company to export maggi noodles whereas the curb on sales within the country continues to stay (the next hearing is on July 14. 2015). Countries like UK, Singapore and Canada have tested maggi noodle samples and found them safe for public consumption.
Is the starcast endorsing maggi noodles aware that potentially excess levels of lead can lead to serious harm in children aged six years and younger? They, ofcourse, have nothing to do with it except enact a well-scripted noodle ad! Regular consumption of high-level of lead may result in learning disabilities—low IQ, attention deficit disorder, speech and language impairment, decreased bone growth, and kidney damage, among other diseases.
Do you think celebrities should endorse a brand without any responsibility over the quality of the product they endorse? When stardom endorses something as healthy, the masses look up to their favorite stars, also as responsible citizens! If you cannot deny that stars endorsing products does add up to a brand’s ‘USP’ (Unique selling point) then why deny the responsibility that comes with it?
Endorsement has a bigger context in terms of masses, and shirking-off responsibility is just a way of saying “I can’t be blamed for a bad product beyond a limit!”. What is that limit? Aren’t masses looking up to a la Big B, Preity Zinta or Madhuri Dixit Nene as trustworthy stars ?
Does India need better consumer laws in context to stars endorsing products? What do you think?
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Sanjay Puri has been working on Indian-American issues and facilitating stronger US-India relations through USINPAC (US India Political Action Committee and AUSIB (Alliance for US India Business), two bipartisan organizations that he chairs.