Consumer Protection Council says Coke products unsafe for human consumption

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The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) after a thorough investigation has deemed certain products of Coca Cola Nigeria Limited and the Nigerian Bottling Company as unfit and unsafe for human consumption.

The Council has ordered the companies which manufacture Coke, Sprite, Fanta and Five Alive amongst other numerous drink brands to subject their manufacturing processes to the scrutiny of inspection for a period of 12 months. This is to ensure adherence to the Council’s safety standards and regulations.

Director General of the CPC, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, disclosed this at a press briefing on the ‘Investigation into Violation of Product Quality Standards by the Nigerian Bottling Company and Coca Cola Nigeria Limited’, in Lagos yesterday.

However, in a joint statement signed by Mr.Clem Ugorji Public Affairs & Communications Manager Coca Cola Nigeria Limited and Adeyanju Olomola Head, Public Affairs and Communications, Nigerian Bottling Company Limited (NBC) and Coca Cola Nigeria Limited (CCNL) confirmed that the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) recently carried out a product complaint investigation involving both companies in respect of two short filled cans of Sprite.

The statement said that “each organization cooperated with the Council in the course of the investigation and provided the information available to it in varying respects including but not limited to quality assurance, product handling and consumer complaints resolution processes which have been updated over the years. It is regrettable that the Council’s conclusions and recommendations do not appear to have acknowledged the information.

“As responsible organizations, NBC and CCNL take all matters relating to products very seriously and remain committed to maintaining the highest international quality management and food safety standards and certifications. Because consumers are at the heart of everything we do, both organizations also take a responsive approach towards satisfying customers and consumers. Nigerian Bottling Company Limited and Coca Cola Nigeria Limited hold the Council and, indeed, all regulators and stakeholders in high esteem and will continue to work with them to make any necessary improvement.

CPC DG, however alleged, “The Panel, after five hearings, held between September 2013 and February, 2014 substantiated the allegation of product defect and violation of the Consumer Protection Council Act, though the investigation was premised on two half filled cans of Sprite, it led to a plethora of findings, among which are: that the cans of Sprite are products of the Nigerian Bottling Company under license of Coca Coca Nigeria Limited; that the cans of sprite were defective and had health and safety implications for consumers; that Nigerian Bottling Company does not have a detailed written shelf life policy for dealing with expired products; that Nigerian Bottling Company’s grievance resolution policy does not cover instances where the consumer suffers physical injury from consumption, or compensation in instances where Replacement will be inadequate; at Nigerian Bottling Company’s supply chain management does not extend to retailers who the bulk of Nigerian consumers buy their products from; and that Nigerian Bottling Company’s traceability policy fails to’ effectively address the real purpose as the company often relies on information as to the place of purchase of the product. In view of all these, the Council made far reaching recommendations for system change in Nigerian Bottling Company and Coca Cola Nigeria Limited.

“To this effect, it has issued an Order, which gives clear directions for standard compliance in all areas that the companies have been found wanting.

“The Order requires Nigerian Bottling Company and Coca Cola Nigeria Limited to:  subject their manufacturing process to the Council’s inspection for a period of 12 months to ensure compliance with safety standards and regulations; formulate and make available to the Council a Shelf Life Policy within 90 days to facilitate the removal of expired products from the market; review within 90 days their grievance resolution policy to : address compensation for injuries, or compensation in instances where replacement will be inadequate; review their supply chain management policy within 90 days to include retailers in order to minimise the distribution of defective, ‘ non conforming or expired products.  review within 90 days their traceability policy to make it easier for  the companies to track their products without necessarily requesting purchase information from the consumer”.

Speaking on the genesis of the matter, Atoki said, “Pursuant to a consumer complaint received by the Consumer Protection Council regarding two half empty cans of Sprite, products manufactured by the Nigerian Bottling Company Plc under the licence and authority of Coca Cola Nigeria Limited, the Council in accordance with the Consumer Protection Council Act commenced an investigation into the complaint on the 6th day of September 2013 and gave notice thereof to the Nigerian Bottling Company Plc and Coca Cola Nigeria Limited.

“The Council set up a Panel which invited both companies to provide any responses or positions they wish to take regarding the complaint, and provided them repeated opportunities to make representations, provide information and address sundry issues arising out of the complaint and their operations.
While the Nigerian Bottling Company cooperated with the Council in the investigation, Coca Cola Nigeria Limited, in contravention of applicable law, elected to adopt a rather hostile and flagrant approach to the Council and its proceedings by failing, refusing, neglecting to attend, make depositions or produce documents in its possession.”

She added, “The Council had, prior to this complaint, been inundated with similar situations and other complaints, such as; rusty bottle tops, rusty cans and foreign particles in beverage products of the Nigerian Bottling Company under licence of Coca Cola Nigeria Limited.The panel, after five hearings, held between September 2013 and February 2014, substantiated the allegation of product defect and violation of the Consumer Protection Council Act.

“Though the investigation was premised on two half filled cans of Sprite, it led to a plethora of findings, among which are: that the cans of Sprite are products of the Nigerian Bottling Company under license of Coca Coca Nigeria Limited; that the cans of sprite were defective and had health and safety implications for consumers; that the Nigerian Bottling Company does not have a detailed written shelf life policy for dealing with expired products; and that the Nigerian Bottling Company’s grievance resolution policy does not cover instances where the consumer suffers physical injury from consumption, or compensation in instances where replacement will be inadequate.”

 

The DG stated, “In view of all these, the Council made far reaching recommendations for system change in the Nigerian Bottling Company and Coca Cola Nigeria Limited. To this effect, it has issued an Order, which gives clear directions for standard compliance in all areas that the companies have been found wanting.

“The Order requires the Nigerian Bottling Company and Coca Cola Nigeria Limited to: subject their manufacturing process to the Council’s inspection for a period of 12 months to ensure compliance with safety standards and regulations; formulate and make available to the Council a Shelf Life Policy within 90 days to facilitate the removal of expired products from the market.”

The CPC boss, however, said that Coca Cola and the NBC had been directed to pay compensation to the consumer whose complaint triggered the investigation.

“The CPC has ordered Coca Cola Nigeria Limited and the Nigerian Bottling Company to: “review within 90 days their Grievance Resolution Policy to address compensation for injuries, or compensation in instances where replacement will be inadequate; review their supply chain management policy within 90 days to include retailers in order to minimise the distribution of defective, non conforming or expired products; review within 90 days their traceability policy to make it easier for the companies to track their products without necessarily requesting purchase information from the consumer; compensate the consumer whose complaint necessitated the investigation; and pay civil penalties to act as deterrent,” she noted.

 

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