Wednesday, March 15, 2017 10:01 am
By Ademola Adegbamigbe
The Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) and the National Agency For Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) have, since Monday, been a target of derision in newspapers, social media, beer joints and market places. Reason: a Lagos High Court, Igbosere, ordered NAFDAC to order NBC Plc to put a written warning on Fanta and Sprite bottles indicating that both soft drinks “are poisonous when consumed along with Vitamin C.”
Justice Adedayo Oyebanji who delivered the judgement blamed NAFDAC for failing in its responsibilities to also warn Nigerians the way UK did on the two NBC products bought by a businessman here and exported to that country.
These were 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, asking the court to rule 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.
The drama began in March 2007, when Fijabi Adebo Holdings Company, according to Saharareporters, 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. But when the company took the goods to the UK, the Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council’s Trading Standard, Department of Environment and Economy Directorate, as the report indicated, “raised fundamental health issues on the contents and composition of Fanta and Sprite,” findings that were corroborated by other agencies in European Union countries, “which found the products to contain excessive levels of sunset yellow and benzoic acid, which are known to be carcinogenic.”
Given the findings, Adebo’s company incurred huge losses since they could not push the products to the market. Consequently, he made a beeline for the court, the outcome of which is now in the open.
The most scandalous of the court drama on the part of NBC was its defence, rejecting the allegation that the damages claimed by the businessman and his firm were caused by negligence or any fault on its part. 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.”
The trouble here is that poison is safe for consumption in Nigeria, but not in Europe or the West! This means NBC has been killing us slowly in Nigeria, and we do not know, even while the law suit dragged on for nine solid years.
Implicit in what NBC called illegal exportation is that Fijabi did not inform it that the goods he bough were for export and that the poisonous drinks were indeed manufactured “FOR LOCAL CONSUMPTION”. What? In other words, if NBC knew the Fanta and Sprite were to be exported to England, they would not have, according to a critic, added so much poisonous acid!
Justice Oyebanji rammed it in: “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 color or creed.
“It is manifest that NAFDAC has been grossly irresponsible in its regulatory duties to the consumers of Fanta and Sprite manufactured by Nigeria Bottling Company. In my respective view, NAFDAC has failed the citizens of this great nation by its certification as satisfactory for human consumption products, which in the United Kingdom failed sample test for human consumption, and which become poisonous in the presence of Ascorbic Acid ordinarily known as Vitamin C, which can be freely taken by the unsuspecting public with the company’s Fanta or Sprite.
“As earlier stated, the court is in absolute agreement with the learned counsel for the claimants that consumable products ought to be fit for human consumption irrespective of race, colour or creed.”
We advise that NBC should stop its racial, double standard and that NAFDAC should no longer fail to live up to expectation and that it should drag its net wide to subject other assorted drinks that have invaded the markets to tests of international standards