The Association of Food, Beverage and Tobacco Employers (AFBTE) has corroborated the position of the Federal Ministry of Health on safety of Fanta and Sprite for consumption in the country, saying their production meets national set standards by relevant regulatory agencies.
A recent statement from the secretariat of the association in Lagos says, “the level of benzoic acid and ascorbic acid in Fanta as well as the benzoic content of Sprite produced and sold in the country by the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) are in compliance with standards approved by all relevant national regulations and the international standards set by Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC), a body established for the purpose of setting internationally recognized standards, codes of practice, guidelines relating to foods, food production and food safety by the United Nations through the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
It stated that there was no truth in the claim that Fanta becomes poisonous when taken with Vitamin C, saying that for the risk factor to formally occur, the benzoate level must be above the Codex level of 250mg/kg in the presence of metal ions that act as catalysts with Vitamin C.
AFBTE pointed out that the level in contention here with regard to the said products was Fanta (188.64mg/kg; and Sprite (201.06mg/kg and 161.5mg/kg respectively, noting that the rejection of the Fanta and Sprite that were exported to the UK in 2007 was not because they were unsafe for human consumption as they met the Nigerian regulatory standard which, itself, was within the international food safety limit of 600mg/kg set by Codex at the time.
Fijabi Adebo Holdings Limited & Dr. Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo had in 2007 filed a suit at the Lagos State High Court against the Nigeria Bottling Company Plc (NBC) over rejection of the soft drink products they had procured from the NBC by the United Kingdom (UK) Food Inspection Authority and making claim of N3,000,000.00 ( Three Million Naira) only as the cost of instituting and prosecuting this suit against the Defendant but the Court in its Judgement delivered on the 15th of February, 2017, dismissed all claims against NBC and held that the Company had not breached its duty to consumers and that there are no proven case of negligence against it (NBC).
The Court however, directed the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to mandate the NBC to include a warning on its bottles of Fanta and Sprite that its content cannot be taken with Vitamin C as same become poisonous if taken with vitamin C. NBC has since appealed this order.
It stated that the NBC does not produce for export as its products are produced within the guidelines of the Nigerian Industrial Standards in conformity with global food safety standards. It added that since NBC products are produced and consumed locally, it did not need to produce to the specification of UK standard as every country has its Codex standard.
Earlier the Federal Ministry of Health had said that NBC’s products Fanta, Sprite, and Coke manufactured in Nigeria, are safe for consumption.
The ministry, in a statement by its Director of Media and Public Relations, Akinola Boade, said that the assurance came after the Minister, Professor Isaac Adewole called a meeting of the Department of Food and Drug Services, Federal Ministry of Health, NAFDAC and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to address the issue.
While further aligning the positions of the Federal Ministry of Health, SON and that of NBC, the Association said the standard approved for every country is dependent on its environmental conditions and that the level of benzoic acid approved when used in combination with ascorbic acid is 250mg/kg because Nigeria is a tropical region, while that of the UK, a temperate region is 150mg.