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    Saturday, March 25, 2017

    Fanta, Sprite Consumption: What You Need To Know

    We all should be familiar with the judgment of a Lagos State high court by now, in a matter instituted by a Lagos-based businessman, Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo, and his company, Fijabi Holdings against Nigerian Bottling Company and National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC.
    Justice Adedayo Oyebanji, who delivered the judgment, decried the company for its claim that it never knew the products were to be exported. Fijabi Holdings exported the products to the United Kingdom, apparently for Nigerians residing in UK. As anyone who has lived outside Nigeria knows, our compatriots are well attached to products from their homeland that there is a thriving market for such products. The Fanta and Sprite were tested in the UK and the authorities declared that soft drinks are above the UK standard level, UK laboratory never said the Fanta and Sprite are unfit for human consumption.

    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 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, on the fact that the products contain the preservative, benzoic acid.

    Many Nigerians interpreted this ruling to mean that Fanta and Sprite are not fit for human consumption since UK authorities had said so. Minister of Health Prof Isaac Adewole quickly waded into the matter and set up a panel of experts to probe it, as did the Consumer Protection Council (CPC). After the investigation was concluded, Federal Ministry of Health certified both Fanta and Sprite as safe for consumers. The explanation was rather complicated. FMOH’s Director of Media and Public Relations Akinola Boade said the Ministry’s investigation revealed 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.

    The levels were in compliance with both the Codex and Nigeria Industrial Standards, stressing that the Coca-Cola products manufactured in Nigeria were safe for consumption in view of the following reasons:
    Risk assessment was conducted to ascertain maximum limits of food additives acceptable in foods. This takes into consideration the environmental, storage and distribution conditions as well as the shelf life of food products.

    In the subject case which dates back to 2008, a suit filed by a businessman, Fijabi Adebo and his firm, Fijabi Adebo Holdings Ltd against NBC and NAFDAC, the UK authorities confiscated a consignment of the 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.

    Benzoic and Ascorbic Acid reacts under extremely 60 degree >Celsius. The climate of Nigeria is tropical, however there are wide climatic variations in different regions of the country. Near the coast temperatures rarely exceed 32 degrees Celsius (90 degrees Fahrenheit), but humidity is very high and nights are very hot. Inland there are two different seasons. A wet season from April to October, with lower monthly temperatures and the wettest month being June. Also, a dry season from November to March, with midday temperatures that rise above 38° Celsius (100° Fahrenheit) but relatively cool nights, dropping as low as 12° Celsius (54° Fahrenheit).

    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 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.
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