The claimant's company, Fijabi Adebo Holdings Limited, attempted to export Coca-Cola products to the United Kingdom for retail in February 2007. But authorities in the UK seized and subsequently destroyed a shipment, Adebo claimed, because the products contained excessive levels of sunset yellow and benzoic acid. The latter substance can form the carcinogen benzene when combined with ascorbic acid, according to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Lawyers for the NBC argued that the products were not intended for export, but Justice Adedayo Oyebanji rejected this defense. "Soft drinks manufactured by Nigeria Bottling Company ought to be fit for human consumption irrespective of color or creed," the judge said.
Mr Adebo was pleased by the verdict but vowed to pursue further damages. "I'm happy that I'm victorious and we've alerted Nigerians and the entire world to what is happening in Nigeria," the businessman told CNN. "What the court fined NAFDAC is not one tenth of the amount I've spent on litigation ... We should have been awarded at least the amount that we spent in purchasing that product and in exporting it to UK. We are entitled to special damages for what we have gone through."
Both the NBC and NAFDAC are appealing against the ruling, arguing that the Coca-Cola products do not exceed benzoic acid limits for Nigeria or international limits set by Codex, the international food standards body administered by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
"The UK standards limit benzoic acid in soft drinks to a maximum of 150 mg/kg. Both Fanta and Sprite have benzoic levels of 200 mg/kg which is lower than the Nigerian regulatory limit of 250 mg/kg," wrote Sade Morgan, legal, public affairs and communications director of the NBC.