According to reports, the Federal Government has directed the Nigerian Bottling Company and all bottling companies in Nigeria to insert advisory warnings on all products to safeguard the health of all citizens and consumers.
The government’s action was sequel to a recent judgment of a Lagos High Court on the case filed by Fijabi Holdings and another plaintiff against the Nigerian Bottling Company Limited and the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (joined as a nominal party).
The Director (Media and Public Relations) in the Ministry of Health, Boade Akinola, in a statement issued in Abuja on Friday, said the Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, summoned a meeting of the Department of Food and Drug Services in the Federal Ministry of Health, NAFDAC and Standards Organisation of Nigeria to address the health-related issues.
According to her, in view of the findings, the government advised “all Nigerians to take medicines with potable water” to help to prevent unexpected drug-food interactions.
“For the benefit of the health of all Nigerians, all bottling companies are encouraged to insert advisory warnings on all products as necessary,” she said.
The following, Akinola said, were some of the resolutions of the meeting the Health Ministry, NAFDAC and SON had.
She said, “Both Benzoic acid and Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C) are ingredients approved by International Food Safety regulators and used in many food and beverage products around the world.”
Akinola said, “Codex Alimentarius Commission is the organ established by the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations and the World Health Organisation to set internationally recognised standards, codes of practice, guidelines relating to foods, food production, and food safety.
“In the case of Benzoic acid, the standard set by Codex was 600mg/kg until recently reviewed to 250mg/kg and adopted in 2016 (CODEX STAN 192-1995 revised 2015 and 2016). With reference to the Codex standard and other relevant documents, SON as the standard setting body in Nigeria, in consultation with technical experts and relevant stakeholders, elaborated the standard of Benzoic acid in soft drinks to be at 250mg/kg, based on the national climatic and storage conditions.
“This standard has been in existence since 1997 and revised in 2008. (NIS 217:2008). The levels of benzoic acid in Fanta (1 batch) and Sprite (2 batches) presented by the claimant in the court are 188.64mg/kg, 201.06mg/kg and 161.5mg/kg respectively. These levels are in compliance with both the Codex and Nigeria Industrial Standards.”
The government also clarified that Coca-Cola products manufactured in Nigeria are safe for consumption.
“Yes, the Coca-Cola products manufactured in Nigeria are safe for consumption in view of the following reasons: Risk assessment was conducted to ascertain maximum limits of food additives acceptable in foods. This takes into consideration the environmental, storage and distribution conditions, as well as the shelf life of food products.
“NAFDAC and SON regularly monitor the manufacturing practices of food industries and conduct laboratory analyses to ascertain continuous compliance with required national standards. There was a routine inspection conducted at NBC by NAFDAC officers in December, 2016, which was satisfactory”, the statement said.
The government also explained the reason for the difference between the quality of Fanta and Sprite produced in Nigeria and the United Kingdom.
Akinola said, “With reference to the Codex standards, each country or region is permitted to adapt a standard/limit based on country specific scientific evidence such as environmental, storage and distribution conditions. Benzoic acid, as a preservative, prevents the growth of microorganisms, which thrive more at higher climatic temperatures in places like Nigeria.
“Due to the different environmental conditions obtainable in the UK, the standard for Benzoic acid was set at a lower limit of 150mg/kg, while in Nigeria, it was set at 250mg/kg even below that of Codex (as of the time of production of that batch; Codex limit was 600mg/kg).
“Food products being imported into a country must comply with the relevant standards of the destination country. NAFDAC has processes in place to ensure products imported into the country are evaluated to ascertain compliance with required Nigerian industrial standards.
“The claimant did not obtain NAFDAC certification before export; otherwise, it would have been advised on the required standard of the destination country.”