Coke; Poisonous for U.K., okay for Nigeria?

Imagine how vulnerable we are as a people, when it takes the accidental shipment of Coca Cola beverages meant for local consumption in Nigeria to the UK to enlighten us that the Coca Cola drinks sold in Nigeria are poisonous. Imagine the other harms we are exposed to- the rice we eat, water we drink, the different products we buy. Half of which are not made in Nigeria.

A Mr Fijabi, in 2007,  bought a large amount of Coca Cola’s drinks and shipped some to the UK wherein the UK health regulatory board declared it unfit for consumption. Reasons being the “poisonous” levels of Sunset Yellow and Benzoic acid it contains.

Further investigations have linked the high level of Benzoic acid to cancer and the danger it causes when mixed with vitamin C. The court then ordered that the products must carry a warning label informing people not to consume with Vitamin C.

Coca-Cola’s only defence in court was simply that they weren’t told the product would be shipped out of the country as they were manufactured for local consumption only. That solves it then! It is bad for some people but surely a Nigerian with the stomach of a cement mixer can handle it.

This is down to negligence by NAFDAC. Sad as it is, multi-nationals are profit-making businesses and will try all means possible to make more money even if it means jeopardising the health of its consumers. But how it went past the radar of NAFDAC, a watchdog whose aim among others is to “regulate and control the manufacturing and importation of food and drugs”. To make sure it is safe for consumption with no side effects especially in a country where the medical health service is utter shyte!

The fact that this case has been going on since 2007 -i.e 10 years of drinking Coca Cola’s beverages- and we barely heard it in the news proves that the African man’s life is not highly rated. Why it took ten years to come to a decision, why the sale of Coca-Cola beverages wasn’t frozen during that period one can only wonder.

Coca Cola, as expected, has started series of PR campaigns to allay concerns. Their argument is that the level of Benzoic acid is determined by environmental factors and tailored to each country’s climate. This however doesn’t explain why the public wasn’t warned about the risk it poses. A measure that should have been authorised by NAFDAC.

It is evident that our leaders and safeguarding bodies are not competent to act justly or protect the public. While it’s unrealistic to ask that we all scrutinise ingredients of every product, food, drug sold in the country, it is imperative that we put pressure on these organisations.

We have seen the world use the power of social media to raise awareness and bring about justice (Ice bucket challenge, Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, #JeSuisCharlie, #NoMakeUpSelfie), even those ones that didn’t concern or epp your situation but you took part in for the gram. Now, why don’t we use that same power to put pressure on NAFDAC and Coca Cola? We know that many have died from the consumption of fake drugs and substandard products. Let’s send a message that we are aware and watching and we expect competence and accountability from NAFDAC and other governmental agencies.

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