Alike Ejiofor

The Nigerian Bottling Company Limited (NBC) has described as false, the media reports that Fanta and Sprite beverages are unsafe, simply because their levels of Benzoic acid were not within the United Kingdom standards.

NBC’s Legal, Public Affairs and Communications Director, Mrs. Sade Morgan, said in a statement yesterday that the media reports were not only unfounded but also undermine the entire food and beverage industry in Nigeria, which is regulated by the same ingredient levels approved by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), and other regulatory bodies for the country.

The company also cited Lagos High Court judgment delivered on February 15, 2017, in a suit involving Fijabi Adebo Holdings Limited and Dr. Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo v. NBC and NAFDAC, where the 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 judgment, 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,” NBC said.

According to the company, in the subject case, which dates back to 2007, the UK authorities confiscated a consignment of the company’s products shipped to that country by the plaintiff because their benzoic acid levels were not within the UK national level.

The company, however, added that their benzoic acid levels were 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 harmonising food standards globally.

NBC further clarified that the UK standards limit benzoic acid in soft drinks to a maximum of 150 mg/kg, stressing that 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 also pointed out that 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,” NBC added.
The company assured members of the public of its unwavering commitment to product quality, safety and customer satisfaction.