NBC tries to ease public concern over use of Benzoic and Ascorbic Acid in Soft drinks

Nigerian Bottling Company (“NBC”) released a statement on Thursday to ease public fears over its use of benzoic and ascorbic acids in the production of Fanta and Sprite.

The announcement comes on the heels of a Lagos High Court ruling which ordered the National Agency for Food and drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to compel the NBC to include health warning on its drink labels cautioning consumers on the dangers of taking Vitamin C with either Fanta or Sprite as the combination becomes poisonous.

The ruling follows a case brought before the court by a Lagos businessman, Dr. Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo of Fijabi Adebo Holdings Ltd against NBC and NAFDAC. Mr. Adebo sought N15m compensatory damages for soft drinks which it purchased in large quantities to be exported to the United Kingdom. The UK regulatory authorities found high levels of ascorbic acid in the Fanta and Sprite brands, which they alleged were poisonous when consumed with Vitamin C. The High Court in Lagos ruled in favour of the claimant, awarding him N2m. The court placed the blame on NAFDAC for its negligence in carrying out its regulatory functions and ordered it to compel NBC to include health warning labels on its Fanta and Sprite brands.

In the statement released to the media, NBC assured consumers and the public on its commitment to quality, safety and customer satisfaction, stating that its soft drinks were safe for consumption.

“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:

“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.

“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,.

“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.” the statement reads.

The company noted that the benzoic and ascorbic acid levels in Fanta and Sprite are in compliance with the levels approved by all relevant national regulators and the international level set by CODEX.

“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.

“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.” the company disclosed.

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