NBC reacts to court ruling, says Fanta, Sprite safe for consumption with Vitamin C

Fanta and Sprite [Photo: Kitchen Butterfly]

The Nigerian Bottling Company, NBC, has appealed a court order directing the company to include a warning on the bottles of its Fanta and Sprite that its contents cannot be taken with Vitamin C.

A Lagos High Court sitting at Igbosere, Lagos State, had on Monday compelled the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, to give the Nigeria Bottling Company (NBC) 90 days, to include on all bottles of Fanta and Sprite that the content cannot be taken with Vitamin C.

The judgment was sequel to a suit filed by a Lagos-based businessman, Emmanuel Adebo, and his company, Fijabi Adebo Holdings Limited, against NBC Plc and NAFDAC.

In his suit, 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.

Benzoic acid is a white, crystalline powder with a faint, non-offensive odour.

Though it serves as preservative, if used excessively, it causes cancer and has been linked to asthma problems and increased levels of hyperactivity in children.

Benzoic acid is also used to manufacture a wide variety of products such as perfumes, dyes, topical medications and insect repellents.

Sunset yellow is a dye that can be found in foods like orange juice, ice cream, canned fish, cheese, jellies, soft drinks and many medicines

It can also dangerous for human health as it can cause urticaria, rhinitis, allergies, hyperactivity, abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting in some individuals.

The NBC however said the judgement was inaccurate and its products were safe.

“Both Fanta and Sprite have benzoic levels of 200 mg/kg which is lower than the Nigerian regulatory limit of 250 mg/kg when combined with ascorbic acid and 300 mg/kg without ascorbic acid and also lower than the 600 mg/kg international limit set by CODEX,” the company said.

Read NBC’s full statement below:

“Our attention has been drawn to media reports which contain misleading information on the safety of benzoic and ascorbic acids as ingredients in soft drinks, citing a Lagos High Court order.

“In the judgement delivered on February 15, 2017 in a suit involving Fijabi Adebo Holdings Limited & Dr. Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo v. Nigerian Bottling Company Limited (NBC) & National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the Lagos High Court dismissed all claims against NBC and held that the company had not breached its duty of care to consumers and that there was no proven case of negligence against it.

“In the same judgement, the court directed NAFDAC to mandate NBC to include a warning on its bottles of Fanta and Sprite that its contents cannot be taken with Vitamin C as same become poisonous if taken with Vitamin C. This order was premised on the fact that the products contain the preservative, benzoic acid. NBC has since appealed this order.

“Whilst we do not wish to delve into the details of the case or the merits of the court order by this medium, we find it imperative in the interest of consumers and members of the public to make the following clarifications:

“In the subject case which dates back to 2007, the UK authorities confiscated a consignment of our products shipped to that country by the plaintiff because their benzoic acid levels were not within the UK national level, although well within the levels approved by both the national regulators for Nigeria and the international levels set by CODEX, the joint intergovernmental body responsible for harmonizing food standards globally.

“The UK standards limit benzoic acid in soft drinks to a maximum of 150 mg/kg. Both Fanta and Sprite have benzoic levels of 200 mg/kg which is lower than the Nigerian regulatory limit of 250 mg/kg when combined with ascorbic acid and 300 mg/kg without ascorbic acid and also lower than the 600 mg/kg international limit set by CODEX.

“Both benzoic acid and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) are ingredients approved by international food safety regulators and used in many food and beverage products around the world.

“These two ingredients are also used in combination in some of these products within levels which may differ from one country to another as approved by the respective national food and drug regulators and in line with the range prescribed by CODEX,”

“The permissible ingredient levels set by countries for their food and beverage products are influenced by a number of factors such as climate, an example being the UK, a temperate region, requiring lower preservative levels unlike tropical countries.

“Given the fact that the benzoic and ascorbic acid levels in Fanta as well as the benzoic acid level in Sprite produced and sold by NBC in Nigeria are in compliance with the levels approved by all relevant national regulators and the international level set by CODEX, there is no truth in the report that these products would become poisonous if consumed alongside Vitamin C.

“The wrong perception emanating from the media reports that our Fanta and Sprite beverages which are fully compliant with all national and international food quality and safety standards are unsafe, simply because their levels of Benzoic acid were not within the UK standards, is not only unfounded but also undermines the entire food and beverage industry in Nigeria which is regulated by the same ingredient levels approved by NAFDAC and other regulatory bodies for the country.

“NBC hereby assures our consumers and members of the public of our unwavering commitment to product quality, safety and customer satisfaction.”


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  • Ibrahim Oyemade

    Food safety compliance is slightly differ for different countries though within codex standards. It is imperative to measure that the permissible limit of food additives do align with allowable dietary limit which should be more strict for developing nations like Nigeria; I mean lower than 150mgkg due to high level of pollutants ,social infrastructure decay in Africa, poverty and rate of illiteracy among the populace.

    Lets get this fact that the primary purpose of food and food products is for SUSTENANCE before profits while regulators are responsible in striking the balance

    • jason jasi

      Well said. Another example is iodine vs goitre. Our level of ascorbic acid should be lower considering our poor diet, bad lifestyle, pollution and decay in infastructure. Same thing may be found in guiness, maltina and especially those cheap drinks out there. Abstinence and total boycott is only way out

  • joelaw

    NAFDAC should speak on this, it is her responsibility to safeguard lives of Nigerians by doing their job properly. Nigerians must be informed of the safe level of Benzoic acid in drinks manufactured or exported to Nigeria. Many unscrupulous business men simply connive with foreign manufacturers to dump rubbish in our country. Why did NAFDAC accepted 250mg/kg limit of the acid while the UK accepts only 150kg, just for my own information.

  • jason jasi

    In Western countries, manufacturer’s and producers of everything from beverage to consumables are compelled by law to state fully and comprehensively item ingredients and their percentage level and amount of calories.

  • Wakawaka

    Spout what you fancy, yours is about profit-making. I’ve been warned enough: Fanta and Sprite are not safe!

    What possible reason could there be for the UK having lower levels than Nigeria, if not NAFDAC’s incompetence and corruption? Abi does poison work differently in white and black blood streams? NBC, go siddon jare!

    • Mayo

      Don’t jump the gun. The report also says the level set internationally by CODEX is 600 mg/kg while the level set by Nigeria is 250 mg/kg. Typically what this means is – there is a level which no-one is meant to go over; countries can then have a lower level which takes into account their specific peculiarities. If this is all correct, then what has simply happened is that UK has a much lower level than Nigeria which means the drinks are not considered safe in the UK but are safe in Nigeria and other countries.

      • chuks clinton

        Think for yourself what will it cost them to change the benzoic levels to bearest minimum as the case with uk.
        The statement itself is confusing read again “The UK standards limit benzoic acid in soft drinks to a maximum of 150 mg/kg. Both Fanta and Sprite have benzoic levels of 200 mg/kg which is lower than the Nigerian regulatory limit of 250 mg/kg when combined with ascorbic acid and 300 mg/kg without ascorbic acid and also lower than the 600 mg/kg international limit set by CODEX” how can combining with ascorbic acid (250mg/kg) be lower than not combining (300mg/kg) ??? Can they please put a link for us to confirm the international standards

  • Godwin

    This is where Nigerian Government should cash in,the consumer protection agency should sue the company for 100 billion naira on behalf of Nigerians taking into account the number of years this product have been in production ,plus NAFDAC should begin the process of enforcing the judgement as the court has stipulated a time frame been 90days appeal doesn’t stop the judgement from been executed

    • Mayo

      Why? What exactly did the company do wrong? Did you report the article which specified the different approved levels in different countries?

      • Godwin

        come again,did you read the part where the UK government said it is not safe for consumption,please explain to me why a product that is not good enough for the white become good enough for the black,by the way for your information at 250mg they are claim at that level it becomes a cancer causing agent,secondly NAFDAC has never published a level for information,the NAFDAC code states product must be fit for consumption .it clearly isn’t fit for consumption. your comment equally reminds me of what i have been advocating,the problem with Nigeria is not simply corruption but rather the lack of patriotism,because if i understand you ,you are telling me you have no problem with them killing Nigerians,let me guess probably because you work there .

        • Mayo

          Why are more caucasians prone to skin cancer than dark coloured people? Why does sunburn affect more caucasians than dark colored people? And how come you’re glossing over the fact that the international standard is even higher than what the UK has.

          You are quite silly for saying I’m not patriotic or I have no compulsion killing Nigerians. I should also accuse you of lacking self confidence because you believe whatever a ‘white’ person say is superior to what a black person has said. Instead of accusing me of stuff, go back and read the response by the Government and my own comment. To recap for you – the international body has a standard, Nigeria set their standard and it is lower than the standard set by the international and standard body; UK also set their own standard to be lower than both the international standard and the Nigerian standard; the Nigerian government has said the UK is doing that to account for their own peculiarities. You have provided no proof that the Nigerian standard is not adequate.

          • Godwin

            My friend ,stop speaking .you are speaking to a knowledgeable person not somebody you can confuse.all the question you have asked above well the answer is simple,the skin are affected due to pigmentation,white lack pigment,black have pigment ,now please educate me on how white and black internal organs are different that what they consume need to be different ?

  • aisha ani

    This judge is an embarrassment.

  • born Great

    Sprite and fanta finished in Nigeria.

  • GusO

    NAFDAC is outdated and should strive to be current. Otherwise, the Director of the Agency should be replaced. Why should Nigeria approve levels of benzoic acid and Sunset Yellow Dye known to cause adverse effects? NAFDAC should keep it’s eye on the ball otherwise Nigerians are in danger of being poisoned by NAFDAC-approved marketed foods.

  • Abidilagungun

    I love water, zero benzoic acid and zero Sunset Yellow!