A High Court judge in Lagos, Nigeria has declared that Coca-Cola products Sprite and Fanta contain ingredients that could be poisonous.
Warning Labels On Bottles Of Fanta And Sprite
Fanta and Sprite bottles in Nigeria may soon come with warning labels as Justice Adedayo Oyebanji ordered Nigerian Bottling Company, which manufactures the beverages, to place written warnings on the beverages to inform consumers against drinking them with vitamin C.
The court held that high levels of food additives and benzoic acid present in the soft drinks may pose health risks when these are mixed with ascorbic acid, also known as vitamin C.
The judge also awarded costs equivalent to about $6,350 against the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, citing the agency's failure to uphold health standards by certifying the safety of the beverages despite that these can become poisonous when mixed with ascorbic acid.
According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, the carcinogen benzene can form when benzoic acid and ascorbic acid are combined. An unnamed scientist in Nigeria who has dealings with NAFDAC confirmed this, telling BBC that some human toxicity studies showed benzoic acid may react with ascorbic acid in soft drinks and form benzene, which is linked to potentially fatal health conditions.
"While benzoic acid itself is relatively non-toxic, when benzene is formed in the presence of ascorbic acid in foods it is particularly dangerous, as benzene is widely known to be toxic and linked to many forms of cancer. These include leukemia and other cancers of the blood," the scientist said.
Not Intended For Export
The brouhaha over the safety of the Nigerian Sprite and Fanta started with a lawsuit filed by businessman Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo.
Adebo's company, Fijabi Adebo Holdings Limited, attempted to export the beverages to the UK.
Unfortunately, authorities there seized and eventually destroyed the shipment because tests found that the drinks were not fit for human consumption. The levels of benzoic acid and the food coloring sunset yellow present in the beverages were so high UK health authorities said they pose potential health risks when mixed with ascorbic acid.
NBC lawyers argued that the products were not intended for export but the judge rejected this defense.
"Soft drinks manufactured by Nigeria Bottling Company ought to be fit for human consumption irrespective of color or creed," the judge said.
Coca-Cola refuted the claims that Fanta and Sprite beverages are not fit for consumption when combined with vitamin C, saying that this is inaccurate and not supported by science. The company assured consumers of the safety of its products, explaining that they strictly adhere to regulations in countries where they are sold.
"While local guideline levels of these ingredients may vary by national standards in each and every case, our beverages comply within the range defined by CODEX Alimentarius, a collection of internationally recognized standards, codes of practice, guidelines and other recommendations related to food production and food safety," the company said.
NBC and NAFDAC are appealing against the ruling.