The Vice Chancellor of Benson Idahosa University, Prof. Ernest Izevbigie has insisted that taking Vitamin c with Fanta and Sprite soft drink could cause cancer and other health illness.
Vanguard reports that he expressed concern over the non-compliance with the order of a Lagos High Court mandating the National Agency for Food, Drug and Administration (NAFDAC) to compel the Nigerian Bottling Company Limited, NBC to do so, saying the 90 days given by the court has since expired and that the NBC should have withdrawn the products until all the issues were resolved.
Speaking at a press briefing, he said that it was worrisome that nothing had changed since the order from the court mandating NAFDAC to compel the NBC to do the needful, saying it was wrong for firm to place profit ahead of human safety.
Prof. Izevbigie, said that the institution stood by its research findings on the danger of taking Vitamin C with benzoic acid as in Fanta and Sprite, saying it was done in line with the mandate given to the University to impact knowledge, research and service to the country. “It is the university that should serve as an umpire. It is about us to give our expert opinion,” he said.
He explained that the review of the Scientific literature which examined the effect of temperature (20 o C, 60 o C and 100 o C) on the conversion of Benoic acid to benzene shows, “an increase in benzene formation of as the temperature increased from 20 degree Celsius to 60 degree Celsius by approximately three fold (300%) in the absence of Vitamin C, and tenfold (1000%) in the presence of Vitamin C in 24 hours.
It cannot be concluded the formation of benzene does not occur at 30 o C and 40 o C”. He said the colourant used in Fanta, the yellow sunset, had been implicated in cytotoxicity, carcinogenesis, allergies and hyper activity in children when the right amount is not used.
On benzoic acid, he said the Federal Ministry of Health has explanation to give on the reason why standard given for it in soft drinks was put at 250mg/kg as opposed to 150mg/kg that was obtainable in the United Kingdom and Ghana.
Prof Izevbigie, who noted that though the Nigerian standard was high owing to high temperature and that it still falls within the international standard, said pasteurization and the use of carbon dioxide can achieve the same goal as the use of high benzoic acid without the added health risks.
He recommended a “reduction of the sodium benzoate concentration to below 150mg/kg, a removal of Vitamin C as an ingredient in Fanta due to concern for benzene toxicity and the use of natural dye as a replacement for the colourant in Fanta.”