A Lagos High Court sitting at Igbosere has faulted National Agency For Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) for failing Nigerians by allowing the mass consumption of Fanta and Sprite which were proven to contain cancer-causing chemicals. The products were banned from the UK.
The court also ordered the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) Plc, manufacturers of the deadly drinks to put a written warning on Fanta and Sprite bottles stating that both soft drinks are poisonous when consumed along with Vitamin C.
In the judgment given by Justice Adedayo Oyebanji, the court awarded a cost of N2 million against NAFDAC. The judgment was the outcome of a 10-year old suit filed by, Dr. Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo, and his company, Fijabi Adebo Holdings Limited, against NBC Plc and NAFDAC.
In the amended statement of claims, it was alleged that in March 2007, Fijabi Adebo Holdings Company bought large quantities of Coca-Cola, Fanta Orange, Sprite, Fanta Lemon, Fanta Pineapple and soda water from NBC for export and retail in the United Kingdom. But when the consignment arrived in the United Kingdom, health authorities in that country, raised fundamental health issues especially on the excessive amounts of sunset yellow and benzoic acid, whish are confirmed to be carcinogenic. The products were then seized and destroyed.
In its defense, NBC admitted supplying the products, but claimed that the product were safe for consumption in Nigeria and not meant for export. NBC also described Mr. Adebo’s claims as “speculative, frivolous and vexatious and should be dismissed with substantial cost”. NAFDAC did not file any defense.
In her judgment, Justice Oyebanji said: “It is imperative to state that the knowledge of the Nigeria Bottling Company that the products were 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 Nigeria bottling company ought to be fit for human consumption irrespective of color or creed.
“It is manifest that NAFDAC has been grossly irresponsible in its regulatory duties to the consumers of Fanta and Sprite manufactured by Nigeria Bottling Company. In my respective view, NAFDAC has failed the citizens of this great nation by its certification as satisfactory for human consumption products, 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 company’s Fanta or Sprite.
“As earlier stated, the court is in absolute agreement with the learned counsel for the claimants that consumable products ought to be fit for human consumption irrespective of race, colour or creed.
“The court, in the light of the damning evidence before it showing that NAFDAC has failed to live up to expectation, cannot close its eyes to the grievous implication of allowing the status quo to continue as it is.
“For the reasons herein adumbrated in this judgment, the court hereby orders as follows :
“That NAFDAC shall forthwith mandate Nigeria bottling company to, within 90 days hereof, include on all the bottles of Fanta and Sprite soft drinks manufactured by the company, a written warning that the content of the said bottles of Fanta and Sprite soft drinks cannot be taken with Vitamin C as same becomes poisonous if taken with Vitamin C.
“In consideration of the fact that this case was filed in 2008 and that it has been in court for nine years, costs of N2 million is awarded against NAFDAC. Interest shall be paid on the costs awarded at the rate of 10% per annum until liquidation of the said sum,” ruled Justice Oyebanji.