Health Ministry wades into NBC – Fanta, Sprite controversy; constitutes panel to investigate claims

The Federal Ministry of Health said on Thursday it has set up a panel of experts to investigate the fallout from the recent Lagos High Court ruling concerning the level of benzoic and ascorbic acid in soft drinks produced in the country by the Nigerian Bottling Company (“NBC”).

The Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, disclosed this through a series of tweets on his tweeter handle.

Adewole assured Nigerians that the Federal Government had assembled a group of food scientists and nutritionists to establish the safety of preservatives in beverages produced in Nigeria.

The Health Minister also indicated that he would meet with officials of the Standard Organisation of Nigeria.

“A group of experts have been convened to immediately investigate and submit a report. I have also requested a meeting with SON. The issue goes beyond the legal aspects of the court verdict. It is about morality.

“Nigerians need to know that we will put their safety first. The questions are: Is the Coca-Cola produced in Nigeria safe? Is the acidity level acceptable? What is the difference between Coca-Cola products available in Nigeria and the United Kingdom?

“Nigerians are justifiably angry as it concerns the recent verdict of a case involving an exporter. I have instructed NAFDAC to liaise with SON to address Nigerians immediately concerning the safety of Coca-Cola products made locally.”

A Lagos High Court had ordered the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to compel NBC to include a health warning on its Fanta and Sprite brands that the product could not be consumed with Vitamin C.

Meanwhile, the National President, Nutrition Society of Nigeria, Dr. Bartholomew Brai, has for the first time commented on the ongoing controversy. He stated that the internationally approved benzoic acid level for the preservation of beverages was 600mg.

However, he noted that while the body would not tolerate any violation of standards by beverage companies, it would be wrong to assume that Fanta and Sprite were not safe for consumption until evidence suggest otherwise.

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