A Lagos High Court sitting at Igbosere has ordered the National Agency For Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to order the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) Plc to put a written warning on Fanta and Sprite bottles stating that both soft drinks are poisonous when consumed along with Vitamin C.
The court also held that NAFDAC failed Nigerians by declaring, as fit for human consumption, products discovered by tests in the United Kingdom as turning poisonous when mixed with ascorbic acid (Vitamin C).
In the judgment given by Justice Adedayo Oyebanji, the court awarded a cost of N2 million against NAFDAC.
The judgment was the outcome of a suit filed by a Lagos-based businessman, Dr. Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo, and his company, Fijabi Adebo Holdings Limited, against NBC Plc and NAFDAC.
Mr. Adebo, urged the court to declare that NBC was negligent to its consumers by bottling Fanta and Sprite with excessive levels of benzoic acid and sunset additives.
The businessman also urged the court to order NAFDAC to carry out routine laboratory tests on all the soft drinks and related products NBC bottles to ensure their safety for consumption.
Large quantities of Coca-Cola
In the amended statement of claims filed before the court by Mr. Abiodun Onidare on behalf of Mr. Adebo and his company, it was alleged that in March 2007, Fijabi Adebo Holdings Company bought large quantities of Coca-Cola, Fanta Orange, Sprite, Fanta Lemon, Fanta Pineapple and soda water from NBC for export to and subsequent retail in the United Kingdom.
When the consignment arrived in the United Kingdom, health authorities in Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council’s Trading Standard, Department of Environment and Economy Directorate and other agencies in European Union countries, found the products to contain excessive levels of sunset yellow and benzoic acid, which are known to be carcinogenic. A carcinogen is any substance, radionuclide, or radiation that is an agent directly involved in causing cancer.
On account of the irregularities and carcinogenic substances present in the drinks, Mr. Adebo and his company could not sell the Fanta and Sprite. This caused huge losses for the company, as the products were seized and destroyed by the health authorities.
The claimants equally alleged that NAFDAC did not carry out requisite tests to determine the safety of the drinks for human consumption. They averred that being registered as exporters with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, they could legally export NBC products to any part of the world and that the bottling company was aware that the products purchased were meant for export.
Meant for local distribution and consumption
In its amended statement of defense, filed before the court by Mr. T. O. Busari, NBC admitted supplying the products, but contended that they are meant for local distribution and consumption, as it does not produce for export. It argued that Coca-Cola is manufactured and bottled by various Coca-Cola franchise holders in most countries of the world, including the United Kingdom.
The company denied that it was negligent, as it has stringent quality control procedures to ensure that its products are safe for end-user consumption.
NBC argued that the levels of the chemical components in its soft drinks are safe for consumption in Nigeria and that the claimants are not entitled to the recovery of damages arising from their illegal exportation of products meant for local distribution.