Still on carbonated drinks

Sir: The recent verdict by Justice Adebanjo Oyebanji of the Lagos High Court which awarded a two million naira fine against the National Agency For Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and also ordered the body to order the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) Plc to put a written warning on Fanta and Sprite bottles, is one judgment that continues to generate furore across the country.

It will be recalled that Dr. Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo, a Lagos-based businessman brought a suit against NBC Plc and NAFDAC, through his company, Fijabi Adebo Holdings Limited.
The whole story began when Fijabi Adebo Holdings Company bought large quantities of some NBC carbonated drinks for export to and subsequent retail in the United Kingdom. When the consignment arrived in the United Kingdom, the Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council’s Trading Standard, Department of Environment and Economy Directorate, raised fundamental health issues on the contents and composition of Fanta and Sprite, which were in the consignment.

Findings by the United Kingdom health authorities were also supported by other agencies in European Union countries, which found the products to contain extreme levels of sunset yellow and benzoic acid, which are known to be carcinogenic. (Carcinogenic in lay man’s term means something that causes 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. Expectedly, this caused huge losses for the company, as the products were seized and destroyed by the United Kingdom health authorities.

The claimants also 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.

In her judgment, (and I believe her words should be immortalised) Justice Oyebanji said: It is imperative to state that the knowledge of the Nigeria Bottling Company that the products were to be exported is IMMATERIAL to its being fit for human consumption. The court is in absolute agreement with the learned counsel for the claimants that soft drinks manufactured by Nigeria Bottling Company ought to be fit for human consumption irrespective of colour or creed.  

Now, there are many questions begging for answers: How can a product declared unfit for human consumption in a developed world be deemed to be okay for consumption in Nigeria? Is this a mistake of omission or that of commission? If it is dangerous for a white man, it should equally be dangerous for our compatriots!
Members of the public should be sufficiently conscious of the composition and risk factors involved in whatever they eat or drink.

On a final note, this is a clarion call on NAFDAC to live up to its statutory responsibilities.
Jeddy Omisore,Ikeja, Lagos

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