The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) on Tuesday released its results of findings on the level of benzoic acid and sunset yellow found in Fanta and Sprite as well as other soft drink brands bottled in the country.
The Council said it was compelled to launch an investigation following the public outcry after a Lagos High Court ruled in the case of Fijabi Adebo and his firm Fijabi Adebo Holdings Limited against the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC).
The court had said in its judgement that Fanta and Sprite had the potential to be hazardous to consumers when consumed with Vitamin C.
Speaking to the press in Abuja on Tuesday, the Director-General, CPC, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, said that the level of two additives, Benzoic acid and Sunset Yellow, had been confirmed through laboratory analysis to be within the Nigerian Industrial Standards (NIS) limits.
However, she noted that there were variations in the levels of Benzoic acid in the samples of soft drinks tested which includes Fanta Orange and Sprite, both products of NBC; Mirinda, a product 7UP Bottling Company; and Lucozade, produced by Suntory Food & Beverage Nigeria Limited (formerly owned by GlaxoSmithKline Nigeria Plc).
Atoki said that due to the wide variations in the level of benzoic acid, there was a need for further investigative analysis and action by regulatory agencies.
She explained that the Council collected samples of soft drinks from the open market in eight locations across the six geopolitical zones of Nigeria. In total, 65 samples of soft drinks were collected and analyzed, which included Fanta Orange, Sprite, Mirinda and Lucozade.
The samples, she added, were analyzed at the Sheda Science and Technology Complex, a laboratory under the Federal Ministry of Science and Technology. The analysis focused on the levels of Benzoic acid and Sunset Yellow in the soft drinks.
Results of the tests revealed that Benzoic acid levels in Fanta Orange ranged from 5.09mg per litre to 197mg per litre; Sprite had 2.82mg per litre to 239mg per litre; Mirinda, 0.56mg per litre to 330.9mg per litre; and Lucozade, 2.26mg per litre to 323.53mg per litre.
Similarly, the lab analysis for the Sunset Yellow in 32 samples of Fanta Orange were in the range of 23.1mg per litre to 35.5mg per litre, while Mirinda results ranged from 26.1mg per litre to 34mg per litre; Lucozade tested between 22.7mg per litre to 30mg per litre.
Atoki explained that the Nigerian Industrial Standards (NIS) for Benzoic acid is 250mg per kg when combined with Ascorbic acid, also known as Vitamin C; and 300mg per kg without Ascorbic acid.
For Sunset Yellow, the standard limit set by CODEX Alimentarius commission and NAFDAC was 100mg per kg, which is similar to standards in China, South Africa and the Middle East.
The DG said that the results have been shared with the regulatory agencies, Standard Organisation of Nigeria (SON) and NAFDAC.
She added that the Council has recommended regulatory action and review of Benzoic acid limits in soft drinks as the current standard has not been reviewed since 2008.
“Benzoic acid, a preventative used in food and soft drinks, inhibits microbial growth and helps in the achievement of shelf life in products where it is used, and helps to retain the integrity of soft drinks so that taste, colour and flavour are consistent over the shelf life period.
“The consumption of soft drinks containing Benzoic acid with other factors, including but not limited to storage, distribution methods and presence of Ascorbic acid can potentially result in adverse effects.”
“The CPC also carried out a comparative analysis of countries with temperate and tropical climatic conditions on the approved level of Benzoic acid in their soft drinks. It was found that contrary to the claims that climatic condition was a factor for the present limit of Benzoic in soft drinks in Nigeria, four tropical countries namely Ghana, Pakistan, India and Malaysia, with climates similar to Nigeria, have lower approved limits for Benzoic acid ranging from 100mg/kg as opposed to the NIS limit of 250mg/kg for Nigeria.”
“With regards to the level of Sunset Yellow, the council found the results of SHETCO tests carried out on the sampled products that Sunset Yellow levels were generally within NIS limits.
“However, the council found from its research that Sunset Yellow had been banned in several countries, including Sweden, Norway, Finland and Australia, because of its adverse effects; while some others across the world have elongated requirements for its use.
“In the light of the observations, the CPC makes the recommendation that regulatory action and review is required with respect to Benzoic acid limits in soft drinks as the current standard, which has been in existence since 2008, is overdue for review.
“This is more compelling in the light of the requirement for a review to be carried out every five years. Additionally, low levels in similar tropical countries support this recommendation.”
Regarding Sunset Yellow, Atoki said, “The CPC recommends regulatory action for a review of the standard as some have reduced the approval limit, some have labelling requirements for its use, while others have adopted outright ban.”