X-raying NBC’s insensitivity to health of Nigerians


Earlier in the year, a Lagos High Court sitting at Igbosere ruled that the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) Plc be ordered by the National Agency For Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to put a written warning on Fanta and Sprite bottles stating that both soft drinks are poisonous when consumed along with Vitamin C.

A businessman Fijabi Adebo Holdings Company had bought large quantities of Coca-Cola, Fanta Orange, Sprite, Fanta Lemon, Fanta Pineapple and soda water from NBC for export to and subsequent retail in the United Kingdom but on his arrival to the Queens land, the products failed clearance tests.

Mr. Adebo and his company sought the sum of NGN15,119,619.37 as special damages and NGN1,622,000 being the money NBC admitted receiving from the claimants.

In its amended statement of defence, filed before the court by Mr. T. O. Busari, NBC admitted supplying the products but contended that they are meant for local distribution and consumption, as it does not produce for export. It argued that Coca-Cola is manufactured and bottled by various Coca-Cola franchise holders in most countries of the world, including the United Kingdom.

NBC also denied that it was negligent, as it has stringent quality control procedures to ensure that its products are safe for end-user consumption.

Three to four months after, the NBC is yet to obey this court order. The order was to ensure that the company’s drinks were safe for human consumption both in Nigeria and around the world. Meanwhile, it appears that the company is taking steps to change the court sanction on its brand as it recently filed a stay of execution which was rejected by the Lagos High court.

Narrowing down on the claims of NBC shows a lack of sensitivity for consumers of its products in Nigeria. Imagine how many people have consumed the aforementioned products that have been declared injurious to health, a point which also buttressed by the judge who ruled on the stay of execution filings.

On the other hand, the body responsible for checking food and drugs in the country apparently got its finger burnt by failing in the discharge of its duties. The trial judge, Justice Adedayo Oyebanji, however, ordered a conditional stay of execution of NGN2 million cost awarded against NAFDAC.

“It is beyond argument that if the application for stay is granted and human health is consequently adversely affected, it is most unlikely that there can indeed be a return to status quo. It is imperative to add the resultant effect of the order sought to stay is the preservation of human life, the business interest of Nigeria Bottling Company cannot in my respected view take precedence over public health. “Accordingly, Nigeria Bottling Company ‘s application for stay of execution fails and it is hereby dismissed,” Justice Oyebanji held.

According to the NBC, Fanta contains Carbonated water, sugar, citric acid, ascorbic acid, stabilizers, flavourings, sodium benzoate and colouring, while that of Sprite includes Carbonated water, sugar, citric acid, flavourings, sodium salt, sodium benzoate.

More so, it is said that Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an essential nutrient. Still, it’s possible to have too much vitamin C. It is a water-soluble vitamin that supports normal growth and development. It also helps the body absorb iron in the body.

It is also believed by many that large orange or a cup of strawberries, chopped red pepper or broccoli provide enough vitamin C for the day. Any extra vitamin C will simply be flushed out of your body in your urine.

However, for adults, the recommended dietary reference intake for vitamin C is 65 to 90 milligrammes (mg) a day, and the upper limit is 2,000 mg a day. Although too much dietary vitamin C is unlikely to be harmful, as its megadose may cause a couple of illnesses which include Diarrhea, Nausea, Vomiting, Heartburn, Abdominal bloating and cramps, Headache, Insomnia and Kidney stones.

A recent check on the bottles of the brands mentioned shows that the Nigerian Bottling Company is yet to comply with the court order which may amount to contempt.

The Nigerian Bottling Company is fully-owned by CocaCola Hellenic Bottling Company quoted on the London Stock Exchange. The group has not till date commented on the matter.

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