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NBC Allays Concerns Over Benzoic Acid in Soft Drinks

Nigerian Bottling Company Ltd Allays Concerns Over Benzoic Acid in Soft Drinks

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In the same judgement, the court directed NAFDAC to mandate NBC to include a warning on its bottles of Fanta and Sprite that its contents

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Our attention has been drawn to media reports which contain misleading information on the safety
of benzoic and ascorbic acids as ingredients in soft drinks, citing a Lagos High Court order.

In the judgement delivered on February 15, 2017 in a suit involving Fijabi Adebo Holdings Limited
& Dr. Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo v. Nigerian Bottling Company Limited (NBC) & National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the Lagos High Court dismissed all claims against NBC and held that the company had not breached its duty of care to consumers and that there was no proven case of negligence against it.

In the same judgement, the court directed NAFDAC to mandate NBC to include a warning on its
bottles of Fanta and Sprite that its contents cannot be taken with Vitamin C as same become
poisonous if taken with Vitamin C. This order was premised on the fact that the products contain
the preservative, benzoic acid. NBC has since appealed this order.

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Whilst we do not wish to delve into the details of the case or the merits of the court order by this
medium, we find it imperative in the interest of consumers and members of the public to make the
following clarifications:

  1. In the subject case which dates back to 2007, the UK authorities confiscated a consignment of
    our products shipped to that country by the plaintiff because their benzoic acid levels were not
    within the UK national level, although well within the levels approved by both the national
    regulators for Nigeria and the international levels set by CODEX, the joint intergovernmental
    body responsible for harmonizing food standards globally.
  2. The UK standards limit benzoic acid in soft drinks to a maximum of 150 mg/kg. Both Fanta
    and Sprite have benzoic levels of 200 mg/kg which is lower than the Nigerian regulatory limit
    of 250 mg/kg when combined with ascorbic acid and 300 mg/kg without ascorbic acid and
    also lower than the 600 mg/kg international limit set by CODEX.
  3. 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.
  4. These two ingredients are also used in combination in some of these products within levels
    which may differ from one country to another as approved by the respective national food and
    drug regulators and in line with the range prescribed by CODEX,.
  5. The permissible ingredient levels set by countries for their food and beverage products are
    influenced by a number of factors such as climate, an example being the UK, a temperate
    region, requiring lower preservative levels unlike tropical countries.
  6. Given the fact that the benzoic and ascorbic acid levels in Fanta as well as the benzoic acid
    level in Sprite produced and sold by NBC in Nigeria are in compliance with the levels
    approved by all relevant national regulators and the international level set by CODEX, there is
    no truth in the report that these products would become poisonous if consumed alongside Vitamin C.
  7. The wrong perception emanating from the media reports that our Fanta and Sprite beverages
    which are fully compliant with all national and international food quality and safety standards
    are unsafe, simply because their levels of Benzoic acid were not within the UK standards, is
    not only unfounded but also undermines the entire food and beverage industry in Nigeria
    which is regulated by the same ingredient levels approved by NAFDAC and other regulatory
    bodies for the country.

NBC hereby assures our consumers and members of the public of our unwavering commitment to
product quality, safety and customer satisfaction.

Signed
Management
Nigerian Bottling Company Ltd

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