A Lagos High Court, Igbosere, Lagos State, Monday ordered the National Agency for Food, Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to compel Nigeria Bottling Company (NBC) PLC, manufacturers of Fanta and Sprite soft drinks, to include a written warning that the content of the bottles cannot be taken with Vitamin C.
Justice Adedayo Oyebanji made the order while delivering judgment in a suit filed by a Lagos businessman, Dr Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo and his firm, Fijabi Adebo Holdings Ltd against the NBC and NAFDAC.
The court warned that taking Fanta and Sprite with Vitamin C is poisonous and awarded a cost of N2 million against NAFDAC for failing “to live up to expectations.”
It declared that NAFDAC failed the citizens of Nigeria by its certification as satisfactory for human consumption, products which in the United Kingdom (UK) failed sample test for human consumption and which became poisonous in the presence of Ascorbic Acid ordinarily known as Vitamin C, which can be freely taken by unsuspecting members of the public with Fanta and Sprite.
The plaintiffs had urged the court to declare that the NBC was negligent and breached the duty of care owed to its customers and consumers in the production of what it argued was contaminated Fanta and Sprite soft drinks with excessive “benzoic acid and sunset” addictive.
Fijabi also urged 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 NBC factory.
The plaintiffs’ counsel Mr Abiodun Onidare in an amended statement of claim alleged that sometime in March, 2007 Fijabi Adebo Holdings purchased large quantities of Coca-Cola, Fanta Orange, Sprite, Fanta Lemon, Fanta Pineapple and Soda Water from the NBC for export to the UK for retail purposes and supply to their customers in the UK.
They said, among others, that 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 UK health authorities, specifically the Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council’s Trading Standard Department of Environment and Economy Directorate.
The claimants alleged further that NAFDAC failed to carry out necessary tests to determine if the soft drinks were safe for human consumption.
The claimants demanded N15, 119,619.37 as special damages and N1, 622,000 being the money admittedly received from the claimants.
However, NBC in its amended statement of defence filed by Mr. T. O. Busari admitted supplying the products but contended that the products manufactured by it were meant for local distribution and consumption as the firm does not manufacture its products for export.
It denied that it was negligent in the manufacturing of its products as alleged, stressing that stringent quality control procedures were adopted in its production process to ensure that its products were safe for consumption.
The firm denied that the damages alleged by the claimants were occasioned by its negligence or any fault from the company as the level of the chemical components in its soft drinks is safe for consumption in Nigeria.
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 colour 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.
”By its certification as satisfactory, Fanta and Sprite products manufactured by Nigeria bottling company without any written warning on the products that it cannot be taken with Vitamin C, NAFDAC would have by its grossly irresponsible and unacceptable action caused great harm to the health of the unsuspecting public.
- The Nation