Pulse Opinion Goodbye Fanta, it was fun while it lasted

The Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) needs to come clean before consumers begin voting with their feet.

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Coca-Cola beverages on the rocks play

Coca-Cola beverages on the rocks

(Buzz Nigeria)
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Last week, as I made the drive from Lekki to Ikeja in the sweltering Lagos temperatures, I sipped on a bottle of ice cold Fanta.

And muttered my last prayers under my breath.

It was the least I could do.

Thanks to citizen Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo, we now know that the Fanta and Sprite we gulp with so much relish in Nigeria, isn't good enough for the folks residing in the United Kingdom (UK).

In 2007, Adebo shipped cartons of Coca-Cola, Fanta Orange, Sprite, Fanta Lemon, Fanta Pineapple and Soda Water for sale in the UK.

He was looking to make a quick buck.

Adebo was stunned when the UK health authorities pointed to him that the drinks he was about to retail on their soil were poisonous and contained too much Benzoic acid and Sunset Yellow.

A Nigerian store packed full with beverages play

A Nigerian store packed full with beverages

(BBC)

 

His shipment containing Coca Cola beverages was immediately destroyed by UK authorities.

Benzoic acid is a preservative while Sunset Yellow is a colouring.

ALSO READ: Taking Vitamin C with Fanta or Sprite is dangerous

Scientists say when Benzoic acid is taken alongside Ascorbic acid (Vitamin C), it reacts to form Benzene.

The product of that reaction "is particularly dangerous, as Benzene is widely known to be toxic and linked to many forms of cancer. These include leukaemia and other cancers of the blood," one scientist explained to the BBC.

Adebo immediately sued the Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) which owns the Coca Cola franchise in Nigeria. The man wanted a refund of his money.

"Initially, they were flexing their muscles, which dragged [out] the process. I went to court to compel NAFDAC (National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control) to do its duty", Adebo told the BBC.

"We shouldn't have a product that is considered substandard in Europe," he added.

It took close to a decade for a Judge to rule on the case--yet another indication that our judiciary is a joke.

But that is subject matter for another day.

Nigerian actor, Funke Akindele, loves her Coke just as well play

Nigerian actor, Funke Akindele, loves her Coke just as well

(Abiyamo)

 

In 2017, an Igbosere High Court asked NAFDAC to compel NBC to affix a health safety warning on cans or bottles of its drinks.

Justice Adedayo Oyebanji who delivered the ruling, also awarded damages of N2M against NAFDAC for failing “to live up to expectations.”

“In consideration of the fact that this case was filed in 2008 and has been in court for nine years, N2M is awarded against NAFDAC. Interest shall be paid on the cost awarded at the rate of 10 per cent per annum until liquidation of the said sum,” Justice Oyebanji said.

NAFDAC says it will appeal the ruling.

The NBC has followed suit. The company says the levels of Benzoic acid in its drinks are within approved local levels, adding that it wasn't negligent while conducting its business.

To be fair, Benzoic acid isn't a poisonous substance and health specifications for consumer goods and beverages vary from country to country, given differences in environment, diet and temperature.

What may be considered unacceptable levels of a chemical in temperate regions like Europe may just be okay in tropical Africa.

But that doesn't excuse the kind of negligence we've seen from the regulatory authorities over time.

To begin with, where was NAFDAC as this case dragged on in court for 10 years? Where was the Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON)?

Prof. Isaac Adewole says NAFDAC will investigate the Indian Garri properly play Health Minister Isaac Adewole (Total Media)

 

Where was the health ministry to save Nigerians from NBC? How many Nigerians have probably lost their lives from drinking Fanta alongside Vitamin C?

How many have become cancerous from gulping Sprite or other beverages through no fault of theirs?

"Nigerians are justifiably angry as it concerns the recent verdict of a case involving an exporter, NAFDAC and NBC (producers of Coca-cola)", Nigeria's health minister, Isaac Adewole, said last week, in what has to rank as the understatement of the decade.

Prof Adewole added that; "I have instructed NAFDAC to liaise with SON to address Nigerians immediately concerning the safety of Coca-Cola products made in Nigeria.

"Is Coca-Cola being produced in Nigeria safe? Is the acidity level acceptable? What is the difference between Coca-Cola products in Nigeria and the UK?

"A group of experts have been convened to immediately investigate and submit a report. I have also requested a meeting with SON tomorrow.

"The issue goes beyond legal aspects of the court verdict. It is about morality. Nigerians can trust us to put their safety first. God bless."

Inside the Coca-Cola company play

Inside the Coca-Cola company

(PageOne)

 

There is something called sub judice in legal parlance. It means that when a case is before the courts, you don't comment on it. But nothing says you can't take action on it.

NAFDAC looked away. SON looked away.

The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) looked away for 10 years.

They all looked the other way as a corporate organisation kept selling beverages that carried a health risk with them.

That's the real tragedy of this case.

NBC is out to make money and could sell liquid dog poop to us all for all they care, just to hit bottomline. 

It is why we have a government to look out for us and pay them so much while at it.

This was a dereliction of duty from the regulatory agencies.

As for the NBC, its grandstanding thus far on this issue is making matters worse.

The attitude of the accused company since this case became public fodder, has been disappointing.

Coca Cola douching play Oh well... (Wall image)

 

Here's what I expected of NBC-- swallow that corporate pride, recall all beverages from your stable now in the market, affix that health warning on future shipments of Coca Cola products to all parts of Nigeria and apologise to consumers profusely.

Clearly, the company needs to level up with Nigerians and explain why the Fanta that is bad for Oyinbos is deemed okay for consumption by the black man in Okitipupa. 

How many more 'unsafe for consumption' beverages and processed foods have Nigerians been passing down their throats because regulation is weak and because regulators can be bribed to look the other way?

ALSO READ: Rep says some bottles of Coke are made with borehole water [VIDEO]

I travel round the country a lot. I can attest that the Coca Cola I drink in Calabar, Kano, Obubra, Zaria or Asaba, tastes differently from the Coca Cola I gulp in Lagos.

Taste buds often spot the difference.

play NAFDAC official (Punch)

 

Ironically, as this case has dragged on, Nigerians are gulping more and more Fanta and Sprite like say tomorrow no dey.

"Kuku kill us na", a few Nigerians have told this writer when it was pointed out that their favourite beverages may just be bad for their health.

It is called brand loyalty. And Coca Cola has probably taken that loyalty for granted.

Coca Cola has been here forever. It's difficult to give up a beverage you grew up on.

But gradually, Nigerians may begin voting with their feet if the brand doesn't come clean.

There's a single bottle of Coca Cola nestling somewhere in the fridge as I type this.

And it may well be my last.

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