- – Products failed sample tests in the UK;
- – NAFDAC failed its duties to Nigerians – Court;
- – NAFDAC to pay N2million with interest at %10 per annum as damages;
- – Fanta and Sprite bottles must carry warning statement in 90 days – Court;
- -Products contains excessive levels “Sunset Yellow and benzoic acid” – UK health authorities;
Justice Adedayo Oyebanji presiding over a Lagos State High Court has instructed the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, to mandate the Nigeria Bottling Company, NBC, Plc to inscribe on all bottles of its Fanta and Sprite soft drinks produced in Nigeria a written warning showing the liquids must not be consumed with Vitamin C which is potentially poisonous if consumed with Vitamin C.
In her judgement, the Justice rebuked NAFDAC for failing its citizens by certifying the products as satisfactory for consumption, same products which in the United Kingdom failed a sample test for human consumption but rather poisonous due to existent Ascorbic Acid ordinarily known as Vitamin C which on can unknowing consume in Fanta and Sprite.
A Lagos businessman Dr, Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo and his company Fijabi Adebo Holdings Limited had filed against NBC and NAFDAC which prompted the courts verdict in its favor as the court awarded a cost of N2 million against NAFDAC.
Fijabo Adebo Holdings Limited urged the court to declare that NBC was negligent and breached its care duties to customers and consumers when it produced contaminated Fanta and Sprite soft drinks with excessive “benzoic acid and sunset addictive”.
The company also prayed the court to direct NAFDAC to carryout routine laboratory tests on all the soft drinks and other products of the NBC in order to ensure and guarantee the safety of the consumable products, which the company produced from its factory in the country.
A statement of claim filed by a Lagos lawyer Abiodun Onidare for Fijabi Adebo Holdings, the claimants alleged that sometimes in March, 2007 Fijabi Adebo Holdings Company bought large quantities of NBC’s products of Coca-Cola, Fanta Orange, Sprite, Fanta Lemon, Fanta Pineapple and Soda Water for exportation to the United Kingdom for retail purposes and supply to its UK’s customers.
Meanwhile, upon arrival of the shipments to the UK, health related issues were raised on the contents and composition of the Fanta and Sprite products by the UK’s health authorities, especially the Stockport Metropolitan Borough Council’s Trading Standard Department of Environment and Economy Directorate.
The samples of UK’s health authorities on the product also supported the Coca-Cola European Union and products revealed that excessive levels of “Sunset Yellow and benzoic acid” which are unsafe for human consumption is present in drinks.
The presence of excessive irregularities and harmful contents in the drinks which can cause cancer related diseases made the Fanta and Sprite products unsellable and destroyed as by the UK health authorities which certified the products unsuitable for consumption.
The plaintiff argued that NAFDAC failed in its duties to conduct adequate tests determining if the drinks were safe for human consumption. Noting that Fijabi Adebo Holdings Company is a registered exporter with the Nigerian Export Promotion Council, and as such could export products of the NBC abroad claiming that NBC was aware that the products were meant to be shipped to the United Kingdom.
Consequent on its arguments the claimant demanded the sum of N15,119,619.37 as special damages and N1,622,000 being admitted cost received from the claimants.
In its amended statement of defence, the Nigerian Bottling Company through its counsel Mr. T. O. Busari, agreed that it supplied products to the Fijabi Adebo Holdings Company; however, it contended that the product manufactured by the NBC are meant for local distribution and consumption (in Nigeria) as the NBC does not produce products for exports, as Coca-Cola brand of soft drinks are manufactured and bottled by different Coca-Cola franchises in various countries around the world including the United Kingdom.
The NBC denied being negligent in its manufacturing processes as the products follow rigorous quality control procedures applied in the production to ensure the safety and consumption of consumers.
The NBC also denied damages claiming that the damages demanded by Fijabi Adebo Holdings Company was due its negligence or any fault from the company as the level of the chemical components in its soft drinks is safe for consumption in Nigeria.
The Bottling Company argued that the plaintiffs’ claims are vexatious, frivolous, and speculative and should be dismissed.
On its part, NAFDAC did not file any defence statement neither was it represented by its legal practitioners.
While making its case, Adebo, for Fijabi Adebo Holdings Company testified for himself accompanied by Mr. Abiodun Onidare (as evidence) and tendered 12 exhibits. NBC’s Sales Operation Manager, Michael Nwosu China, and Head of Central Laboratory, Abiodun Adeola Falana, both testified on behalf of the company and also tendered 12 exhibit.
While given her verdict, Justice Oyebanji said: “It is imperative to state that the knowledge of the NBC that the products were to be exported is immaterial to its being fit for human consumption. The court is in absolute agreement with the learned counsel for the claimants that soft drinks manufactured by NBC ought to be fit for human consumption irrespective of u or creed.
“It is manifest that NAFDAC has been grossly irresponsible in its regulatory duties to the consumers of Fanta and Sprite manufactured by NBC.
“In my respective view, NAFDAC has failed the citizens of this great nation by its certification as satisfactory for human consumption, products which in the UK failed sample test for human consumption and which become poisonous in the presence of ascorbic acid ordinarily known as Vitamin C, which can be freely taken by the unsuspecting public with the company’s Fanta or Sprite.
“As earlier stated, the court is in absolute agreement with the learned counsel for the claimants that consumable products ought to be fit for human consumption irrespective of race, colour or creed.”
“For the reasons herein adumbrated in this judgment, the court hereby orders as follows: That NAFDAC shall forthwith mandate NBC to, within 90 days include on all the bottles of Fanta and Sprite soft drinks manufactured by the company, a written warning that the content of the said bottles of Fanta and Sprite soft drinks cannot be taken with Vitamin C as same becomes poisonous if taken with Vitamin C.
“In consideration of the fact that this case was filed in 2008 and that it has been in court for nine years, cost of N2million is awarded against NAFDAC. Interest shall be paid on the costs awarded at the rate of 10 per annum until liquidation of the said sum.”