The Federal Ministry of Health has clarified the position of Fanta and Sprite, certifying both drinks as safe for consumers. This development arises from the recent court judgement on the case filed by Fijabi Holdings and another versus Nigeria Bottling Company (NBC) and National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), both joined as a nominal party. The Minister of Health summoned a meeting of the Department of Food and Drug Services, Federal Ministry of Health, NAFDAC, and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to address the related issues, a statement signed by Akinola Boade, Director of Media and Public Relations, Federal Ministry of Health, yesterday said.
According to the statement, the findings of the ministry’s investigation revealed that 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.
On whether the levels of additives introduced as preservatives are within specification or not, the statement revealed the following: Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) is the organ established by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) to set internationally recognized 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, Standards Organisation of Nigeria (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 statement also clarifies that 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. There has been the widespread public belief that Fanta and Sprite produced by NBC Nigeria failed the UK benzoic test and therefore harmful to consumers.