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Nigerian Bottling Company Limited (NBC) allays Concerns over Benzoic Acid in Soft Drinks

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Our attention has been drawn to media reports, which contain misleading information on the safety of benzoic and ascorbic acids as ingredients in soft drinks, citing a Lagos High Court order.

In the judgement delivered on February 15, 2017 in a suit involving Fijabi Adebo Holdings Limited & Dr. Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo v. Nigerian Bottling Company Limited (NBC) & National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the Lagos High Court dismissed all claims against NBC and held that the company had not breached its duty of care to consumers and that there was no proven case of negligence against it.

In the same judgement, the court directed NAFDAC to mandate NBC to include a warning on its bottles of Fanta and Sprite that its contents cannot be taken with Vitamin C as same become poisonous if taken with Vitamin C. This order was premised on the fact that the products contain the preservative, benzoic acid. NBC has since appealed this order.

Whilst we do not wish to delve into the details of the case or the merits of the court order by this medium, we find it imperative in the interest of consumers and members of the public to make the following clarifications:

  1. In the subject case which dates back to 2007, the UK authorities confiscated a consignment of our products shipped to that country by the plaintiff because their benzoic acid levels were not within the UK national level, although well within the levels approved by both the national regulators for Nigeria and the international levels set by CODEX, the joint intergovernmental body responsible for harmonizing food standards globally.
  1. The UK standards limit benzoic acid in soft drinks to a maximum of 150 mg/kg. Both Fanta and Sprite have benzoic levels of 200 mg/kg which is lower than the Nigerian regulatory limit of 250 mg/kg when combined with ascorbic acid and 300 mg/kg without ascorbic acid and also lower than the 600 mg/kg international limit set by CODEX.
  1. Both benzoic acid and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) are ingredients approved by international food safety regulators and used in many food and beverage products around the world.
  1. These two ingredients are also used in combination in some of these products within levels which may differ from one country to another as approved by the respective national food and drug regulators and in line with the range prescribed by CODEX,.
  1. The permissible ingredient levels set by countries for their food and beverage products are influenced by a number of factors such as climate, an example being the UK, a temperate region, requiring lower preservative levels unlike tropical countries.
  1. Given the fact that the benzoic and ascorbic acid levels in Fanta as well as the benzoic acid level in Sprite produced and sold by NBC in Nigeria are in compliance with the levels approved by all relevant national regulators and the international level set by CODEX, there is no truth in the report that these products would become poisonous if consumed alongside Vitamin C.
  1. The wrong perception emanating from the media reports that our Fanta and Sprite beverages which are fully compliant with all national and international food quality and safety standards are unsafe, simply because their levels of Benzoic acid were not within the UK standards, is not only unfounded but also undermines the entire food and beverage industry in Nigeria which is regulated by the same ingredient levels approved by NAFDAC and other regulatory bodies for the country.

NBC hereby assures our consumers and members of the public of our unwavering commitment to product quality, safety and customer satisfaction.

Sade Morgan (Mrs.)
Legal, Public Affairs and Communications Director
[email protected];
+234 803 402 2730

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21 Comments

  1. Truth

    March 15, 2017 at 6:30 pm

    They are killing us slowly in Nigeria, and we do not know it.

    Apparently, for 9 years, a civil law case has been going on against Coca Cola Bottling Company, manufacturers of Fanta and Sprite,

    That impacts directly on our health and lives.

    Let me try and paraphrase it, so una no go sleep off.

    Basically, one Dr Fijabi, had in 2007, purchased about N12 million worth of Fanta and Sprite drinks from Coca Cola Bottling Company of Nigeria Ltd, and exported same to the United Kingdom.

    However, on reaching England, under Health and Safety regulations, the authorities tested the products and found them to contain “poisonous levels of Benzoic Acid and Sunset addictives”

    And were therefore declared “unfit for human consumption”.

    The whole export consignment was consequently destroyed.

    Dr Fijabi therefore, sued Coca Cola and NAFDAC for Negligence, breach of duty of care to its customers, and loss of earnings.

    Fine.

    Now comes the interesting part, so sit your yansh well :

    NAFDAC put up no defence in court; they kept quiet.

    However, the Almighty Coca Cola Company offered only one defence in court :

    That Mr Fijabi did not tell them he was going to Export the Fanta and Sprite drinks to England;

    That they were indeed manufactured “FOR LOCAL CONSUMPTION ONLY.”

    What

    For local consumption?

    Make I continue?? Hmmmmmmmmmm

    So what Coca Cola Bottling Company is telling us, is that,

    If they knew the Fanta and Sprite were to be exported to England, they would not have added so much poisonous acid;

    But for the people of Nigeria, it is normal to poison us.

    Chikena.

    That is the official courtroom statement of Coca Cola Bottling Company of Nigeria.

    Yesterday, The Lagos High Court under Justice Adedayo Oyebanji, was ‘crying’ when She gave judgement against Coca Cola, declaring them callous and negligent.

    She ‘cursed the parents’ of NAFDAC for not carrying out proper laboratory checks on ‘minerals’ production in Nigeria.

    Cancer was listed as one of the ailments that the present Fanta and Sprite can cause, especially if taken with Vitamin C tablets.

    She therefore, ordered Coca Cola to henceforth, add a WRITTEN WARNING on Fanta and Sprite bottles that,

    “This product must not be taken with Vitamin C.”

    Once again, Oyinbo has come to our rescue.

    This is stuff you people in Nigeria should concern yourselves about,

    Not whether Dollar has gone up or down.

    Odiegwu!

    • Nuna

      March 16, 2017 at 8:33 am

      Jesus! This is very insightful. Thank you for this because I sure had no idea.

    • #MadeInNaija

      March 16, 2017 at 8:45 am

      Read very well the defense of the NBC and the Court’s judgement to really understand the narrative. NBC broke no local or global regulation. I understand that Bromate is still used by US Bakeries but in Nigeria, it is a banned substance for the Bakers. Additionally, most of the vegetables we consume in Nigeria won’t pass border control in Australia because of their stringent laws against organic imports. Different countries choose additional layer of limit in addition to global limits at their discretion. To the Importers in Nigeria, you need to check the applicable laws in the country of destination before send in any product. Why do you think that NAFDAC has to screen & approve all food and drugs consumed in Nigeria irrespective of the destination.

    • Bleed Blue

      March 16, 2017 at 9:27 am

      Hahaha!!

      It’s not a funny matter really but @Truth this your synopsis is hilarious!

      As for NBC, hmmmm we understand what you’re saying and more importantly, what you’re NOT saying.

      I’ve had too many Cokes, Fantas and Sprites in my lifetime so I can only hope and pray I’ve not done the “lethal” combination at some point. However I’m so glad my kids have never tasted these things before. Never it is and never shall it be.

  2. Modupsy

    March 15, 2017 at 6:53 pm

    All these look like jargons to me…continue drinking Fanta and sprite at your own risk.

  3. funmilola

    March 15, 2017 at 7:13 pm

    all na wash, we all know these drinks are not healthy….don’t worry it won’t affect your market.

    • tola

      March 15, 2017 at 8:55 pm

      I really hope it affects their market, Infact I pray. These guys have been producing rubbish, now they have been exposed after so many years, they are trying to tell us stories. As for me, no more nigerian fanta or sprite ever again. with or without vitamin c, unless they go back to the drawing board

  4. Enny Heart Heart

    March 15, 2017 at 7:34 pm

    Benzoic or no benzoic, whats good for the Europeans is good for the Nigerians. Bye!

    • Hotspice_yimu

      March 15, 2017 at 7:46 pm

      Abi o.

    • Simi

      March 15, 2017 at 11:44 pm

      You know!!!!

      That’s how some story about Swiss oil coys selling lead-filled fuel to Africa came out last year too. The nice, neutral Swiss people sef are killing us.

      Like someone said at the time, whether our laws permit it or not, (and we all know they kuku pay off our lawmakers and leaders), surely what is not good for white lungs or stomachs cannot be good for African ones. We nor strong reach like dat, biko.

      And see me rejecting drinks abroad sometimes, saying it’s not sweet like Naija. I had no idea what was making it soooooo great and sweet. Pschew.

  5. Muse

    March 15, 2017 at 8:17 pm

    NBC would appeal this judgement because they know their traceability section is non existent.

    NAFDAC is supposed to do a periodic test of these samples, but they come in, play with the bosses at the account department, order Chinese food for them, they in turn fill their bellies with food and coke and ooh, the boots of their cars isn’t left out and they forget the reason they came over.

    Their products most times tastes bland after a short period of time, I don’t blame them, our system is too corrupt to hold them accountable

  6. Majestic

    March 15, 2017 at 8:18 pm

    I no drink again. I cannot come and go and have cancer(in Nigerian voice)

  7. cissy_3000

    March 15, 2017 at 9:07 pm

    This case has been in court for the past 10 years, in the mean time they were allowed to continue to sell these poison to our people. Apparently if you mix this benzoic and vitamin c it is poisonous and it can cause cancer.. UK stated it was fit for consumption, so they were not allowed to sell it there. NAFDAC should have withdrawn the fanta and sprite from the market.

    May God help us all, these evil companies are playing with our lives, in another article i read the judge adebayo oyebanji delivering the judgement was in tears declaring these companies callous and shaming nafdac from failing to their job in carrying out proper laboratory check.

    on this note i urge all nigerians to stop buying these fanta and sprite.

    prevention is better than cure

    Benzoates are derived from benzoic acid and are more commonly used as food preservatives than the acid. Some people develop allergy-like symptoms when they are exposed to sodium benzoate. When the chemical reacts with vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in drinks under certain conditions, benzene may be produced. Benzene is a carcinogen. A carcinogen is a substance that is capable of causing cancer.

  8. cissy_3000

    March 15, 2017 at 9:09 pm

    May God punish those who are responsible for this, how many do we know may be victims

  9. Nakoms

    March 15, 2017 at 10:57 pm

    This is just a tip of the iceberg. The country is in the throes of a huge food toxicity epidemic. Our vegetables are grown with some expired pesticides and herbicides. Nigerian beans and other products are banned from from Europe.

    Why will anybody be surprised with the kidney and liver health issues when our national health policy is “we cover this food with the. blood of Jesus”

  10. nunulicios

    March 16, 2017 at 12:20 am

    story story…story. no more fizzy drinks for me!

  11. cissy_3000

    March 16, 2017 at 1:30 am

    Benzoates are derived from benzoic acid and are more commonly used as food preservatives than the acid. Some people develop allergy-like symptoms when they are exposed to sodium benzoate. When the chemical reacts with vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in drinks under certain conditions, benzene may be produced. Benzene is a carcinogen. A carcinogen is a substance that is capable of causing cancer.

  12. cissy_3000

    March 16, 2017 at 2:00 am

    The 1o years this case was in court, they should have pulled the fanta and sprite from the market. this what they would be made to do in the uk and they will be fine miillion of pounds.

  13. #MadeInNaija

    March 16, 2017 at 8:56 am

    Read very well the defense of the NBC and the Court’s judgement to really understand the narrative. NBC broke no local or global regulation. I understand that Bromate is still used by US Bakeries but in Nigeria, it is a banned substance for the Bakers. Additionally, most of the vegetables we consume in Nigeria won’t pass border control in Australia because of their stringent laws against organic imports. Different countries choose additional layer of limit in addition to global limits at their discretion. To the Importers in Nigeria, you need to check the applicable laws in the country of destination before send in any product. Why do you think that NAFDAC has to screen & approve all food and drugs consumed in Nigeria irrespective of the destination.

    • eldred

      March 19, 2017 at 12:05 am

      Pls.. don’t ever you support evil bcos it will sometime in life comeback at you, if not you, ur descendants. What I mean is, do what is right. We are all human, mere weather condition can’t determine what substance we take in. The UK won’t jux wake up and ban dx product just bcos it doesn’t align with their environ. If it was just that, they would have sent it back to nig where it will be good to consume, rather they destroyed it inorder to make sure it won’t b consumed. Do not take part. In an evil act cos if this has caused or taken innocent lives, you will be among to be held responsible cos you supported them. Thanks

  14. LOL

    March 20, 2017 at 8:09 am

    We can be so ignorant at times. One simple question – Did the court declare NBC/CocaCola innocent or not?

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