Health ministry directs bottling companies to insert advisory warnings on products
Advises Nigerians To Take Medicine With Water
Following the recent court judgment on the case filed by Fijabi Holdings and another versus Nigeria Bottling Company and NAFDAC, the Federal Ministry of Health has directed all bottling companies to insert advisory warnings on all products for the benefit of the health of all Nigerians.
It advised Nigerians to take medicines with potable water instead of soft drinks to prevent unexpected drug-food interactions. A statement from the Ministry yesterday in Abuja said that the Minister of Health, Prof Isaac Adewole, had summoned a meeting of the Department of Food and Drug Services, Federal Ministry of Health, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) to address the related issues arising from the court judgment and found out 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, as well as that in the case of Benzoic acid, the standard set by Codex Alimentarius Commission (CAC) Codex was 600mg/kg until recently reviewed to 250mg/kg and adopted in 2016. (CODEX STAN 192-1995 revised 2015 and 2016).
The statement further noted that 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.
It observed that this standard has been in existence since 1997 and revised in 2008. (NIS 217:2008) adding that 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 which are in compliance with both the Codex and Nigeria Industrial Standards.
According to the statement, the Coca-Cola products manufactured in Nigeria are safe for consumption in view of the fact that 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; NAFDAC and SON regularly monitor the manufacturing practices of Food industries and conduct laboratory analysis to ascertain continuous compliance with required national standards; and there was a routine inspection conducted at Nigeria Bottling Company by NAFDAC officers in December, 2016 which was satisfactory.
On why there is difference between the standard of Fanta and Sprite in Nigeria and the United Kingdom, the ministry explained that with reference to the Codex standards, each country or region is permitted to adapt a standard/limit based on country specific scientific evidence such as environmental, storage and distribution conditions.
“Benzoic acid as a preservative prevents the growth of microorganisms which thrive more at higher climatic temperatures like in Nigeria. Due to the different environmental conditions obtainable in the UK, the standard for benzoic acid was set at a lower limit of 150mg/kg while in Nigeria it was set at 250mg/kg even below that of Codex (as at time of production of that batch; Codex limit was 600mgkg).”
The ministry insisted that food products being imported into a country must comply with the relevant standards of the destination country. NAFDAC has processes in place to ensure products imported into the country are evaluated to ascertain compliance with required Nigeria Industrial Standards.
It, however, argued that the claimant did not obtain NAFDAC certification before export, otherwise, he would have been advised on the required standard of the destination country.