By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
They are a staple in nearly every college dorm and a comfort food for millions of weary Mexicans who are too hungry to cook after a long day of work and fighting Mexico City traffic.
But if Mexico’s food police — in this case, Federal Consumer Protection Agency (Profeco) Director Ricardo Sheffield Padilla — has his way, instant cup noodles, those old affordable, single-pouch, stringy pasta treats that got you through midnight cramming for that grueling chemistry test and staved off hunger when it was just too cold and rainy to go outside and get “real food,” may soon be a thing of the past.
Yes, it seems that Sheffield, in his unrelenting quest to force Mexicans to eat healthy food whether they like it or not, has now set his culinary crosshairs on instant noodles.
On Monday, Oct. 4, he announced that nine different brands of instant noodles are being recalled and will no longer be allowed to be sold in Mexico.
As of the start of this month, Scheffler said, Mexico had officially recalled a total of 129,937 units of instant noodles packages (enough to feed an entire freshman class at a large university) because — wait for it — these products do not contain sufficient amounts of meat or vegetables. (Hey, we all knew that, but they’re filling and we still like the taste.)
But Scheffler said that instant noodles “deceive consumers” by pretending to have nutritional value and real food content.
“You would get more nutrition kissing a chicken than you get from these soups,” he said.
“The piece of vegetables they have, which is 0.8 grams, could fit on the head of a nail, although in the photos they show lots of vegetables and they look healthy.”
Fortunately for late-night munchie-ers, Sheffield did not target all instant noodle brands, just those that he said were “presenting misleading information and do not comply with Mexican regulations.”
In no particular order, the instant noodle exiles are: Buldak Cheese, Ottogi Raymon, J-Basket, Myojo, Udon, Kraft, Nongshim, Knorr and Sapporo.
Good old Ramen, it seems, managed to eke past by a nose (make that, a noodle).
In fact, Profeco’s instant pasta analysis, which was carried out during July and August (when the agency didn’t have anything better to do, like reining in skyrocketing inflation or curbing gorging fuel prices), examined a total of 33 brands that were subjected to 363 laboratory tests.
Maruchan and Nissin cup noodles were rejected because of their Styrofoam containers, both for their effect on the environment and their potential to release chemicals into the consumer once they have been zapped by a microwave.
“Heating these products in a microwave can release dioxins that combine with food and are harmful to health,” explained Sheffield.
Meanwhile, Buldak Cheese failed the Profeco Cordon Bleu gastronomy test because it had excessive sodium, saturated fats and calories, as well as a cartoon character on its label (a major no-no for unwholesome foodstuffs sold in Mexico), and Ottogi Raymor got a thumbs down because its label shows a picture of noodles with peas and carrots, but its vegetable consists of only peas.
The other Profeco rejects got ousted for not labeling their content in Spanish (J-Basket), not declaring nutritional information (Nongshim, Sapporo, Myojo and Kraft), and not declaring added sugar (Knorr).