Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) has advised Nigerians to take medicines with potable water, not with refined beverages, in order to prevent adverse drug-food interactions.
The ministry also urged all bottling companies to insert advisory warnings on all products, for the health benefits of all Nigerians.
This message was the outcome of a recent crucial meeting the Minister of Health, Professor Isaac Adewole, held with the authorities of food and drug regulatory agencies of the ministry, namely: Department of Food and Drug Services, National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) and Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON).
The meeting was called by the minister to review the recent judgement of a Lagos High Court ordering Nigerian Bottling Company Limited (NBC) to include a warning on its bottles of Fanta and Sprite that its contents cannot be taken with Vitamin C as same can become poisonous if taken with Vitamin C.
Fijabi Adebo Holdings Ltd and Emmanuel Fejabi Adebo file a suit against NBC and NAFDAC praying the court to declare that NBC was negligent of its customers by bottling Fanta and Sprite with excessive levels of benzoic acid – a preservative agent – and ascorbic acid (Vitamin C)
Findings at the FMOH meeting showed that both benzoic and ascorbic acids are ingredients approved by international food safety regulators and used in many food and beverage products around the world.
The meeting also found out that: “In the case of benzoic acid, the standard set by Codex was 600mg/kg until recently reviewed to 250mg/kg and adopted in 2016.
“With reference to the Codex standard and other relevant documents, Standard Organization of Nigeria (SON) as a standard setting body in Nigeria in consultation with technical expertsand relevant stakeholders elaborated the standard of benzoic acid in soft drinks to be at 250kg/kg based on the national climatic conditions. This standard has been in existence since 1997 And revised in 2008.”
Federal Ministry of Health disclosed that the levels of benzoic acid in Fanta (1 batch) and Sprite (2 batch) presented by the claimant in the court are 188.64mg/kg. 201.06mg/kg and 161.5mg/kg respectively.
“These levels,” said the ministry, “are in compliance with both the Codex and Nigeria industrial standards.”
It, therefore declared: “The coca-Cola products manufactured in Nigeria are safe for consumption,” pointing out 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, the health ministry stated.
It assured the general public that NAFDAC and SON regularly monitor the manufacturing practices of food industries and conduct laboratory analysis to ascertain continuous compliance with required national standards.
Benzoic acid as a preservative prevents the growth of microorganisms which thrive more at higher climatic temperatures like in Nigeria, the health ministry clarified.
“We would like to advise all Nigerians to take medicines with potable water. This would help to prevent unexpected drug-food interaction,:” the health experts resolved.