Justice Adedayo Oyebanji of Igbosere High Court has ordered the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to immediately mandate the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) Plc to include on all bottles of Fanta and Sprite soft drinks manufactured by the company a written warning that the content of the said soft drinks cannot be taken with Vitamin C as same becomes poisonous.
Justice Oyebanji also declared that NAFDAC has failed the citizens of this great nation by its certification as satisfactory for human consumption, products in which in the United Kingdom failed sample test for human consumption and which become poisonous in the presence of Ascorbic Acid ordinarily known as Vitamin C, which can be freely taken by the unsuspecting public with the Fanta and Sprite.
The court also awarded a cost of N2 million against NAFDAC.
The judgment of the court was sequel to a suit filed by a Lagos businessman, Dr. Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo, and his company, Fijabi Adebo Holdings Limited, against NBC and NAFDAC.
Adebo also urged the court to declare that the firm was negligent and breached the duty of care owed to their valued customers and consumers in the production of contaminated soft drinks with excessive “benzoic acid and sunset” addictive.
He also prayed the court to direct NAFDAC to conduct and carry out routine laboratory tests of all the soft drinks and allied products of the company to ensure and guarantee the safety of the consumable products produced from the factory.
In an amended statement of claim filed before the court by counsel to the claimant, Abiodun Onidare, it was alleged that sometimes in March 2007, Fijabi Adebo’s company purchased from the NBC large quantities of Coca-cola, Fanta orange, Sprite, Fanta Lemon, Fanta Pineapple and soda water for export to the United Kingdom for retail purposes and supply to their customers in United Kingdom (UK).
When the consignment of the soft drinks arrived in the UK, fundamental health related matters were raised on the contents and composition of the Fanta and Sprite products by the United Kingdom Health Authorities, specifically the Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council’s Trading Standard Department of Environment and Economy Directorate.
The findings were also corroborated by the Coca-cola European Union and the products were found to have excessive levels of “Sunset Yellow and Benzoic Acid “which are unsafe for human consumption.
And due to the irregularities and harmful content of the soft drinks, which can cause cancer to the consumers, the claimants could not sell the products resulting in appreciable losses, as they were certified unsuitable for consumption and were seized and destroyed by the UK health authorities.
The claimants alleged further that NAFDAC failed to carry out necessary tests to determine if the soft drinks were safe for human consumption.
However, in its amended statement of defence filed before the court by Mr. T. O. Busari, the NBC admitted supplying the
products but contended that the products manufactured by the company were meant for local distribution and consumption.
It denied that it was negligent in the manufacturing of its products as alleged. It said that stringent quality control procedures were adopted in its production process to ensure that its products are safe for consumption of the final user.
Meanwhile, NAFDAC did not file any defence.
In her judgment, Justice Oyebanji said: “It is imperative to state that the knowledge of the NBC that the products were not to be exported is immaterial to its being fit for human consumption.
“The court is in absolute agreement with the learned counsel for the claimants that soft drinks manufactured by the NBC ought to be fit for human consumption irrespective of color or creed.
“In consideration of the fact that this case was filed in 2008 and that it has been in court for nine years, cost of N2 million is awarded against NAFDAC. Interest shall be paid at the rate of 10 per cent yearly until liquidation of the said sum.”