NIGERIA – The Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON) has stressed the need for Nigeria to generate her own data on Benzene level in soft drinks in order to arrive at the safe maximum level of benzoic acid or opt for alternative preservatives.

Mr. Osita Aboloma, the Director General of Standards Organisation of Nigeria (SON), stated this at the Technical Committee meeting on water, alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks held in Abuja.

Represented by the Technical Assistant, Dr. Barth Ugwu, Aboloma said Nigeria must meet the safe maximum level of benzoic acid or opt for alternative preservatives.

He said that development of standards and reviews were targeted at ensuring the health and safety of consumers and to serve as guide to manufacturers, importers and promote fair trade practices.

He alluded to the importance of the five draft standards to be considered by the committee, stressing that they involve products that are consumed widely and frequently by the generality of people across all age and economic strata.

“The draft standards are standards for soft drinks, energy drinks, ginger drinks, sparkling fruit drinks, fruit squashes, concentrate and fruit cordial concentrate,” he said.

According to him, energy drink is one of the most highly consumed non-alcoholic drinks by between 30 per cent and 50 per cent of youths and adolescents.

He said adverse health effects were attributed to the rate of consumption of the drinks due to the caffeine and sugar contents in them.

“Caffeine is a Central Nervous System stimulant of the methyl xanthine class, it is the world’s most widely consumed psychoactive drug.

“Unlike many other psychoactive substances, it is legal and unregulated in nearly all parts of the world,” Aboloma said.

According to him, this underscores reasons for the elaboration of the standard for energy drinks in the country to prevent side effects when consumed in excess.

Aboloma charged the technical committee members to exercise great diligence in carrying out their task towards achieving the objective.

He stressed the need for setting standards that would prescribe good quality and food safety requirements in line with international best practices.

“I implore you all to participate actively and freely express your concerns at every stage of the deliberations,” he said.

The Chairman of the Technical Committee, Prof. Jide Alo, represented by Prof. Segun Ayejuyo, acknowledged the valuable contributions of the members to the assignment.

He called for robust interactions that would ensure consensus, while having the safety and health of consumers at heart.

The committee consists of representatives of Federal Ministry of Health, National Agency for Food, Drugs Administration and Control and Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi.

Others are Association of Food, Beverages and Tobacco Employers, Nigeria Institute of Food Science and Technology, Institute of Public Analysts of Nigeria and Consumer Protection Council.