Problems can occur if the soda gets mixed with too much vitamin C.

By Mike Pomranz
March 29, 2017
© Coca-Cola

Most people have come to accept that soda isn’t the healthiest option, but in Nigeria, residents are being confronted with an even more serious issue: A court has ruled that a couple of pop brands for sale in the African country can be literally “poisonous.”

According to CNN, a Lagos High Court judge has ordered the Nigerian Bottling Company, the local producer of the Coca-Cola brands Sprite and Fanta, to put written warnings on all bottles of the two sodas stating that the products could pose health risks if mixed with too much ascorbic acid, also known as vitamin C. The decision stems from testing that found that bottles of Sprite and Fanta produced by NBC contained potentially unsafe levels of sunset yellow dye and benzoic acid, the latter of which can become carcinogenic when combined with ascorbic acid.

The controversy reportedly began in 2007 when a Nigerian businessman attempted to export Sprite and Fanta to the United Kingdom. Upon arrival, the sodas were destroyed because they exceed the UK’s standard for benzoic acid in soft drinks which is set at 150 mg/kg. However, the Nigerian Bottling Company has argued that even though its sodas, which contain benzoic levels of 200 mg/kg, don’t meet UK standards, they do meet Nigerian standards, which are currently set at 250 mg/kg, as well as other international standard. “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,” Sade Morgan, legal, public affairs and communications director of the NBC, was quoted as saying by CNN.

But Justice Adedayo Oyebanji didn’t buy into that logic. “Soft drinks manufactured by Nigeria Bottling Company ought to be fit for human consumption irrespective of color or creed,” the judge reportedly stated. He did, however, admit that NBC wasn’t the only party at fault; he also fined Nigeria’s National Agency For Food and Drug Administration and Control for not enforcing proper health standards. “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,” Oyebanji said. “NAFDAC has failed the citizens of this great nation by its certification as satisfactory for human consumption products ... which become poisonous in the presence of ascorbic acid.”

NBC and NAFDAC both are reportedly appealing the ruling. You can’t blame them: Though American soda companies hate soda taxes, I’m sure they’d take them any day over being labeled “poisonous.” That has to be a lot worse for business.