ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Analysing the Lazy Mother Argument Inspired by the Maggi Controversy

Evidence from Junk Food Intake in India

Is it “lazy,” “new-generation” working mothers who feed their children two-minute noodles and other junk food, as was suggested during the Maggi noodles controversy? Or is the junk food intake of adolescents related to the educational status of both parents in a transitioning economy, where education can directly or indirectly influence imitation of so-called Western-style fast food consumption patterns? This analysis of survey data from a non-metropolitan Indian setting shows that junk food intake of adolescents is actually lower for working mothers than for homemakers, decreases with an increase in the mother’s education, but increases with increase in the father’s education and with the household’s socio-economic status.

We sincerely thank the Jawaharlal Nehru Medical College and Hospital, Aligarh, and the three public schools affi liated with Aligarh Muslim University, for allowing the cross-sectional survey of adolescent students. We are particularly grateful to the students and parents of the research site for their consent and participation in the study. We thank the editorial team at EPW and, in particular, we appreciate the anonymous reviewer’s valuable comments during the review process. The usual disclaimers apply.

1 Introduction

Nestle’s Maggi instant noodles—a particular favourite of children, adolescents, and adults for three decades in India and abroad—has faced a major controversy in recent times. While several Indian states banned the product on safety concerns, Nestle India withdrew it from stores ­nationally, hoping to bring it back after the contentious situation improved.1Terming Maggi noodles “unsafe and hazardous” for human consumption, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), the statutory regulator, had issued an order in 2015 banning Maggi noodles, prompting Nestle India to ­approach the Bombay High Court seeking judicial review.2 The controversy also generated externalities with FSSAI’s subsequent monitoring of all other brands of instant noodles and other food products in the packaged fast foods category. In ­addition, Nestle faced international regulatory challenges. For example, the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority of Singapore ordered importers to suspend the sale of Maggi instant ­noodles.3 Maggi is Nestle India’s premier brand, contributing 22%–25% to the firm’s revenues. It was rated the No 1 food brand in India in the 2014 Brand Equity survey.4 Defending its brand reputation in emerging markets was crucially important for Nestle as emerging markets account for 43% of its global revenues.5

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Updated On : 9th May, 2021
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