The Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi has banned the consumption of Coke, Sprite and Fanta at government functions in the state.

T​he Consumer Protection Council (CPC), on Wednesday, declared Mirinda and Lucozade soft drinks unsafe for consumption as they contain a high level of benzoic acid.

In line with the ongoing controversy over the health implication of the level of benzoic acid in Fanta, Sprite, the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has called for further investigation.

The Federal Government has announced a 50 per cent increase on tomato importation and additional $1,500 levy per metric tonne.

The World Health Organisation, WHO, has warned Nigerians against taking carbonated drinks, also known as soft drinks, with Vitamin C as it becomes poisonous when mixed.

Recall that a Lagos High Court in a recent judgement, directed the National Agency for Food Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) to mandate the Nigeria Bottling Company (NBC) to include a warning on its bottles of Fanta and

Sprite, that its contents cannot be taken with Vitamin C as the drinks contain benzoic and ascorbic acids as ingredients which becomes poisonous when mixed with Vitamin C.

The NBC has since appealed this order, stating that the benzoic acid level in Sprite produced and sold in Nigeria “are in compliance with the levels approved by all relevant national regulators and the international level set by Codex”.

The NBC added that there is no truth in the report that “these products would become poisonous if consumed alongside Vitamin C.”

But the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), WHO, confirmed that these soft drinks containing a mixture of the salt of benzoic acid, sodium benzoate and vitamin C can cause cancer and other chronic conditions.

According to IARC, when sodium benzoate is combined with Vitamin C (as in some soft drinks and other beverages), and exposed to elevated temperatures or light, the IARC Group 1 cancer-causing chemical, benzene, may form.

Benzoic acid and benzoates are common additives to food, drinks and other products. They are useful chemicals in manufactured products because they kill or inhibit both bacteria and fungi and can act as preservatives. In general, the chemicals are considered to be safe when they are used in small quantities. However, there are some situations in which they may be harmful.

Benzoates are derived from benzoic acid and are more commonly used as food preservatives than the acid. Some people develop allergy-like symptoms when they are exposed to sodium benzoate.

When the chemical reacts with vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in drinks under certain conditions, benzene may be produced. Benzene is a carcinogen. A carcinogen is a substance that is capable of causing cancer.

Signs of benzene toxicity are nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. Lethality (for both inhaled and ingested benzene) has been attributed to respiratory arrest, central nervous system depression, or suspected cardiac collapse.

According to IARC, human exposure to benzene has been associated with a range of acute and long-term adverse health effects and diseases, including cancer and aplastic anaemia. It noted: “Benzene causes acute myeloid leukaemia (acute non-lymphocytic leukaemia), and there is limited evidence that benzene may also cause acute and chronic lymphocytic leukaemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and multiple myeloma.”

The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC has reacted to the court judgement on Nigerian Bottling Company Limited, NBC.

Recall that the Igbosere High Court berated NAFDAC for poor regulation, stating that NBC should carry a mandatory warning on its Fanta and Sprite products, declaring that the contents when taken with Vitamin C could be poisonous.

The judgement was delivered in a suit filed by Fijabi Adebo Holdings Limited and Emmanuel Adebo against the NBC and NAFDAC.

The Court also awarded a N2 million fine against NAFDAC, declaring that the Agency failed Nigerians by certifying Fanta and Sprite fit for human consumption even when they were later tested and declared unfit for human consumption in the United Kingdom.

The NBC had on Wednesday, appealed the court judgement saying it was not true that the drinks are poisonous when taken with Vitamin C.

NBC’s full statement “Our attention has been drawn to media reports which contain misleading information on the safety of benzoic and ascorbic acids as ingredients in soft drinks, citing a Lagos High Court order.

“In the judgement delivered on February 15, 2017 in a suit involving Fijabi Adebo Holdings Limited & Dr. Emmanuel Fijabi Adebo v. Nigerian Bottling Company Limited (NBC) & National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the Lagos High Court dismissed all claims against NBC and held that the company had not breached its duty of care to consumers and that there was no proven case of negligence against it.

“In the same judgement, the court directed NAFDAC to mandate NBC to include a warning on its bottles of Fanta and Sprite that its contents cannot be taken with Vitamin C as same become poisonous if taken with Vitamin C. This order was premised on the fact that the products contain the preservative, benzoic acid. NBC has since appealed this order.

“Whilst we do not wish to delve into the details of the case or the merits of the court order by this medium, we find it imperative in the interest of consumers and members of the public to make the following clarifications:

“In the subject case which dates back to 2007, the UK authorities confiscated a consignment of our products shipped to that country by the plaintiff because their benzoic acid levels were not within the UK national level, although well within the levels approved by both the national regulators for Nigeria and the international levels set by CODEX, the joint intergovernmental body responsible for harmonizing food standards globally.

“The UK standards limit benzoic acid in soft drinks to a maximum of 150 mg/kg. Both Fanta and Sprite have benzoic levels of 200 mg/kg which is lower than the Nigerian regulatory limit of 250 mg/kg when combined with ascorbic acid and 300 mg/kg without ascorbic acid and also lower than the 600 mg/kg international limit set by CODEX.

“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.

“These two ingredients are also used in combination in some of these products within levels which may differ from one country to another as approved by the respective national food and drug regulators and in line with the range prescribed by CODEX,”

“The permissible ingredient levels set by countries for their food and beverage products are influenced by a number of factors such as climate, an example being the UK, a temperate region, requiring lower preservative levels unlike tropical countries.

“Given the fact that the benzoic and ascorbic acid levels in Fanta as well as the benzoic acid level in Sprite produced and sold by NBC in Nigeria are in compliance with the levels approved by all relevant national regulators and the international level set by CODEX, there is no truth in the report that these products would become poisonous if consumed alongside Vitamin C.

“The wrong perception emanating from the media reports that our Fanta and Sprite beverages which are fully compliant with all national and international food quality and safety standards are unsafe, simply because their levels of Benzoic acid were not within the UK standards, is not only unfounded but also undermines the entire food and beverage industry in Nigeria which is regulated by the same ingredient levels approved by NAFDAC and other regulatory bodies for the country.

“NBC hereby assures our consumers and members of the public of our unwavering commitment to product quality, safety and customer satisfaction.”

Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, the Executive Vice Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says Nigerian telecom consumers spent $6.6 billion in 2016.

Danbatta disclosed this on Wednesday in Abuja during the launch of the NCC Year of Consumer.

He said that in 2015, the Nigerian telecom consumers spent 5.6 billion dollars, adding that consumers’ contribution had made the success stories possible in the sector.

“That’s why today’s event is remarkable. More remarkable is that the year 2017 is dedicated to the Nigerian Telecom Consumer,’’ he said.

He said that NCC this year intends to inform and educate consumers with the sole aim of protecting and empowering them to make the right decisions.

He said that a robust media programme would accompany the initiatives in this campaign through the year providing unique and timely information to all.

“That is why in 2017, and I dare say and even beyond, the consumer will be our focus.

“The NCC is mandated to monitor the quality of service and ensure it conforms to acceptable standard.

“A management decision that compelled us to seek to amplify our activities toward ensuring that the consumer enjoys a customer experience that is enhanced and consistent in time and quality.

“We must remember that these consumers together have made all the success stories speak about in the telecom industry today,“ he said

According to him, the event is remarkable because the Nigeria Telecom Consumer is centre stage.

As part of the launch, the commission announced Mr Ali Nuhu, an actor and producer popularly known as King of Kannywood of Hausa movies and Ms Helen Paul, a broadcaster and stand-up comedian as the “Faces of the Nigerian Telecom Consumer“.

The Minister of Communication, Mr Adebayo Shittu said that the ministry was working on formulating policies frameworks and guidelines on protecting ICT consumers.

Shittu said that government had actively engaged key stakeholders to ensure quality of service and consumer rights.

“Our goal is to fully balance between consumer rights and rights to privacy.

“Also to facilitating inter-Governmental Consultations on ICT matters to avoid unnecessary disparities in developmental structures and standards in Nigeria.

“Government is also working to create digital awareness with the objective of increasing the capacity, confidence and trust Nigerians have in digital lives.

“ICTs are invaluable to the process of governance, business, education, health among others,”  he said.

Shittu said that government was intensifying its adoption of ICT to provide better response to the citizens’ demands and improve service delivery to make the administration more efficient.

“I am delighted to be invited to be part of the celebration of the flagging off of the NCC 2017 year of the consumer.

“This is timely in view of the fact that the date coincided with the Wold Consumer Right Day (WCRD) celebration”. NAN

The Government of Enugu State has called on Cashew Nuts farmers and dealers to register with its Produce Inspection Department as the state moves to maximally position the products for exportation.

The Federal Government, on Thursday, vowed to slam N77.5 million ($250,000) fine or five years jail term on frozen fish smugglers.

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