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Reps quiz NAFDAC chief over alleged harmful soft drinks



• Agency targets 90 days to register products

The House of Representatives yesterday quizzed the Acting Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Mr. Ademola Magbojuri.

The questioning followed an alleged presence of harmful soft drinks produced and distributed in the country. An ad hoc committee led by the Majority Leader, Femi Gbajiabiamila, had initiated the three-day public hearing.

The lawmakers expressed readiness to enact laws to prevent the injection of harmful additives into soft drinks consumed in the country.

According to the committee, the probe arose from g reports that some soft drinks contain addictive substances like Benzoic and Ascorbic acids.

The committee noted that soft drinks like Coca Cola has about 250 per one kilogramme of the additives, compared to the 100-120 per one kilogramme of the substance in similar drinks in India, Pakistan and Malaysia, which are in the same tropical regions as Nigeria.

Gbajiabiamila disclosed that the proposed regulatory measures would cover coloured soft drinks in the category of Lucozade, Lacasera and Fanta infused with the Sunset Yellow additive.

According to him, the colorant is a major cause of Attention Deficit and Hypersensitivity Disorder (ADHT) in children in countries like Norway, Sweden, Finland and Australia.

Gbajabiamila expressed dissatisfaction with NAFDAC for not threading the path of caution in the consumption of soft and carbonated drinks, knowing that they could affect the well being of millions of Nigerians.

He cited a Lagos High Court ruling by Justice Adedayo Oyebanji, which ordered NAFDAC to compel the Nigerian Bottling Company to warn consumers of the danger of drinking Fanta or Sprite with Vitamin C.

A Lagos-based businessman, Dr. Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo and his company, Fijabi Adebo Holding Limited, filed the suit against the NBC and NAFDAC.

The NAFDAC boss agreed that the lawmakers should enact appropriate regulatory laws, adding that the agency was living up to its mandate of safeguarding Nigerians

A Deputy Director in the agency, Mrs. Simidele Onabanjo, represented him. The DG urged, who urged lawmakers to involve stakeholders in the soft drinks industry in making the proposed legislation, explained that the infusion of additive in soft drinks was in line with international standards.

He also acknowledged that NAFDAC lacks the necessary equipment to analyse and ensure compliance to global standards in the manufacturing and consumption of soft drinks in the country.

Meanwhile, NAFDAC has set a 90-day period within which to register products. Mogbojuri disclosed this yesterday in Abuja at a consultative forum on the ease of doing business in the medium and small-scale enterprises.

But, the Special Adviser to the Vice President on MEMEs, Tola Johnson, urged a reduction of the registration period to 60 days.

Mogboruri disclosed that the agency would also establish a Small Business Support Desk (SBSD) to guild small businesses through registration processes to serve as enquiry point on regulatory issues.

He also disclosed that NAFDAC has reduced the cost of product registration for companies with five employees or less.

He explained that NAFDAC Product Registration Outreach (NaPRO) would provide interactive engagement and advice on documentation, labeling and other requirements to facilitate the registration process.

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