The strange case of Fanta, Sprite and Benzoic acid in Nigeria: a scientific analysis- Dr Olumayokun Olajide (Episode 4, Part 1)

Men have before hired bravos to transact their crimes, while their own person and reputation sat under shelter.
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In a ground breaking court case between a businesman, Fijabi Adebo, his firm, Fijabi Adebo Holdings Ltd and Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) – the makers of major soft drinks like Coca cola, Fanta and Sprite; it was declared that there are health dangers in drinking Fanta and Sprite (soft drinks) due to the presence of Benzoic and/or Ascorbic acid/s in these products.

Dr Olumayokun Olajide

In order to address the issue from a scientific point of view, interviewed Dr Olumayokun Olajide, a world renowned pharmacologist and  Senior lecturer in the Department of Pharmacy at the University of Huddersfield in the UK.

Dr Olumayokun Olajide received his Ph.D. in Pharmacology from the University of Ibadan in Nigeria where he investigated anti-inflammatory properties of natural products. He was a Humboldt Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Center for Drug Research (Pharmaceutical Biology), Department of Pharmacy, University of Munich, Germany where he studied cellular and molecular pharmacology of anti-inflammatory natural products, focusing on Nuclear Factor-kappa B (NF-κB) signalling. Part of his postdoctoral work was carried out in the Neurochemistry Research Laboratory, Department of Psychiatry, University of Freiburg Medical School where he conducted research on cellular and molecular pharmacology of anti-neuroinflammatory natural products.

Dr Olajide started his academic career as a Lecturer in Pharmacology in the Faculty of Pharmacy, Obafemi Awolowo University, Nigeria. He later moved to the College of Medicine, University of Ibadan, Nigeria as a Lecturer in Pharmacology. Dr Olajide had a brief stint in industry where he was involved in drug development and clinical research; he helped in developing new drugs for type 2 diabetes and atopic dermatitis. Prior to moving to Huddersfield, he was Senior Lecturer in Pharmaceutical Sciences at London Metropolitan University. Dr Olajide is on the editorial board of Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine (eCAM).

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According to Premium Times (an online Nigerian newspaper), the presiding judge on the case, Justice Adedayo Oyebanji of the Lagos High Court, Igbosere, made the following statements:

The court is in absolute agreement with the learned counsel for the claimants that soft drinks manufactured by Nigeria Bottling Company ought to be fit for human consumption irrespective of colour or creed

It is manifest that NAFDAC has been grossly irresponsible in its regulatory duties to the consumers of Fanta and Sprite manufactured by Nigeria Bottling Company.

The court, in the light of the damning evidence before it showing that NAFDAC has failed to live up to expectations, cannot close its eyes to the grievous implication of allowing the status quo to continue as it is

That NAFDAC shall forthwith mandate Nigeria Bottling Company to, within 90 days hereof, 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, costs of N2 million 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.

The case has led to claims and counter claims between the: Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC), Consumer Protection Council (CPC), National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Minister for Health in Nigeria, Professor Isaac Adewole.

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.- NBC

Our lawyer has filed an appeal and a motion to stay execution of action of the judgement also filed, – Yetunde Oni (Acting Director General of NAFDAC)

The reason for CPC’s interest is not far-fetched. For years, Fanta, Sprite and Coca Cola have arguably and consistently been the most widely consumed beverages in Nigeria. The spectrum of consumption is also perhaps the widest, with consumption starting as early as age four and far into adult years. – Dupe Atoki (CPC’s Director General)

It is about morality; Nigerians can trust us to put their safety first. God bless – Professor Isaac Adewole (Nigeria’s Minister for Health)

In this conversation, we discussed many issues, amongst which are:

  • The relevance of heat in chemical reactions
  • The dangers in having Benzoic and ascorbic acids in soft drinks
  • The similarities in human physiology, irrespective of: race, gender, creed or geographical location


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  • You can read the transcript here
  • Listen to this episode on mixcloud
  • Stream by clicking here.
  • You can listen to the previous episode here

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