The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) on Wednesday said, it has filed an appeal and stay of execution on a Lagos High Court judgement which mandates it to compel Nigeria Bottling Company to include a caveat on its bottles that “the content of the bottles cannot be taken with Vitamin C”, as well as the payment of an award of a damage to the tune of N2m.
The High Court in a February ruling to a civil suit filed by Dr Fijabi Adebo accusing the Agency of “gross irresponsibility in its regulatory duties to the consumers of Fanta and Sprite manufactured by Nigeria Bottling Company, (NBC)” had awarded a damage cost of N2m on the drug regulatory body; ordering it to equally compel the Bottling company to inscribe warnings about the danger inherent in consuming content of its products with Vitamin C.
The NBC which equally reacted to the judgement and its reportage in the media in a statement said it has also appealed the ruling and described media reporting as “misleading”, with “the wrong perception”.
But Nutrition experts who have been reacting on the verdict warned, “The named chemicals could be injurious to health”.
The management of the Bottling Company in its statement issued on Wednesday, noted, “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”.
However, NAFDAC;s Acting Director General (DG), Mrs Yetunde Oni in her statement said, “Our Lawyer has filed an appeal and a motion to stay execution of action on the judgement has also been filed”.
Oni In a text message said, “I am in Vienna at the moment at the 60th session Commission on Narcotics Drugs” but noted, “NAFDAC is a national regulatory authority and will react both scientifically and legally on the matter at hand”.
The management of the NBC on its part debunked claims that the brands of its drinks when consumed with Vitamin C becomes poisonous.
According to NBC, “Given the fact that 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”.
Some Nutrition experts have however been reacting to the veracity of the judgement on Nigerian consumers.
Former President of the Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN) and Fellow Academy of Science (FAS), Professor Tola Atinmo, told Healthstyleplus Online, “This is a good development”.
According to Professor Atinmo, “NAFDAC has to wake up to its responsibility. It is unfortunate that many lives must have been lost due to Coca Cola’s negligence”.
Another renowned Nutritionist also a former President of the Nutrition Society, Professor Babatunde Oguntona when asked if truly the chemicals could be injurious to health told our Correspondent, “The simple answer is yes, that is, physiologically speaking”.
Explaining this position, Oguntona pointed out that albeit both chemicals, Benzoic acid and Yellow Sunset additives have been in use, for a long time, “there is yet no agreement among regulatory bodies worldwide on the use and safe intake levels”.
Erstwhile President, Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, (PSN), Olumide Akintayo also shared his thought with Healthstyleplus Online saying, “This is what you get when government flouts its own laws”.
Akintayo berated the Food Agency over recent roles in safeguarding health of Nigerians.
According to him, “Regulations have not been properly enforced in the food industry since Akunyili (Late Professor Dora) left.
“Remember the scams with skimmed milk at Cadbury, Nestle, and expired milk episode with an Agege based food company about 2011/2012.
“An acting DG has been in charge of the place for over one year now, and the federal government is not convinced it should embrace lawful appointments.
“Do more fatalities need to be recorded in high places before government sees a need to act”, Akintayo retorted.
Justice Adedayo Oyebanji of the Lagos High Court recently awarded the cost of N2m against NAFDAC sequel to a suit filed by a Lagos businessman, Dr Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo against NBC and NAFDAC in which both defendants were accused of negligent and breach of consumer protection over the production of contaminated Fanta and Sprite soft drinks with excessive benzoic acid and sunset additives in March 2007.