The Lagos High Court judge recently ruled that the Coca-Cola products could be “poisonous” a decision which is likely going to affect the company’s business and image in Nigeria. The Nigerian Bottling Company (NBC) was found guilty of manufacturing Fanta and Sprite with high levels of the preservative benzoic acid, and sunset yellow colouring chemicals.

In the manufacture of beverages, companies usually use benzoic acid and sunset yellow. Benzoic acid is also used to preserve acidic foods and beverages such as pickles, salad dressings, fruit juices, and soft drinks. Epidemiology has linked its side effects if over used to react with ascorbic acid (vitamin C) in some soft drinks, forming benzene, which causes cancer and other illnesses.

Some reports suggest that sunset yellow may cause allergic or intolerance reactions in certain people, particularly those with a pre-existing sensitivity to aspirin.

Read: The Coca-Cola video censored by Kenyan regulator for violating “family values”

In 2007, a Nigerian businessman Dr. Fijabi Adebo and his company, Fijabi Adebo Holdings Limited shipped Sprite and Fanta manufactured by NBC to the U.K. to sell at his shop in Manchester. Adebo’s consignment was confiscated by the U.K. health authorities, who raised concerns on the chemical composition of his drinks, citing the excessive levels of benzoic acid and sunset yellow in Sprite and Fanta.

The U.K. health authorities destroyed the goods saying they contained excessive benzoic acid and high levels of sunset yellow and therefore were not suitable for consumption in the U.K. The excessive use of benzoic acid forms carcinogenic substances (that has the potential to cause cancer in living tissues) and the sunset yellow have been linked to hyperactivity.

Read: Coca cola sets sights African agricultural expansion

Following the loss of business worth thousands of dollars, Adebo and his company successfully filed a case against the Nigerian National Agency For Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and NBC, Coca-Cola’s franchise owner in Nigeria in 2008.

Lagos High Court rules Coca-Cola products dangerous when mixed with vitamin C. Photo: Wiki Commons

The court ruled it’s not yet safe to drink Fanta and Sprite in Nigeria

After a nine year court battle between Adebo, NAFDAC and NBC, the Lagos High Court ruled that NAFDAC should order NBC Plc to publish warning labels on Fanta and Sprite stating that “The soft drinks are poisonous when consumed along with Vitamin C”.

Justice Oyebanji in her final judgments ruled that: “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. 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 United Kingdom 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.”

The ruling is likely going to affect the company’s business and image in Nigeria.

The issue is currently trending on social media.