Drinking Fanta Or Sprite With Vitamin C Is Dangerous To Health

Dangers of Nigerian Fanta
Nigerian Fanta
When we were still young, there used to be rumours of deaths from consuming soft drinks after eating fruits like mango. 
Well, with recent events and stories, those rumours have elements of truth in them, although they are not true. Please consider this.
The media has been abuzz with news of a court case involving a businessperson and the Nigerian Bottling Company (N.B.C). The story was that the businessperson who bought some quantity of Fanta and Sprite in Nigeria exported them to the United Kingdom (U.K). On getting there, the UK health authorities did some preliminary check on the products. 
Unfortunately, the products, when added to vitamin C (ascorbic acid) produced a poisonous compound. This led to the product being rejected and destroyed by the UK government. They also found the level of sunset yellow (colour) above the recommended standard in the UK.
So, what is the content of Fanta and Sprite produced in Nigeria? Is it different from those produced in other countries? What is the poison produced? Read on as we dig out the answers.
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What Is The Content Of Fanta And Sprite?Nigerian Can Fanta

From the official website of NBC, the contents of Fanta are carbonated water, sugar, citric acid, vitamin C (ascorbic acid), stabilisers, flavourings, sodium benzoate, and colouring (sunset yellow). Sprite, on the other hand, contains carbonated water, sugar, citric acid, flavouring, sodium salt, sodium benzoate.
The quantity of each of these contents used was not stated on the website. Some information was later revealed when the case was out. Meanwhile, let us talk about how these contents can produce a poison.

Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)

This is a highly nutritious acid found in many natural foods including fruits and vegetables. Vitamin C helps in connective tissues synthesis and immune system functions. As an antioxidant, it helps to protect the body against damage from free radicals of which it is very good. Its function as an antioxidant is utilised in the manufacture of processed foods and drinks such as Fanta. It prevents the oxidation of foods that are exposed to air. 

Citric Acid

This acid is found mostly in Citrus fruits and others. They are widely used as acidifiers, flavouring, and chelating agents in consumables. They are added to processed foods to preserve their taste. Although, there is growing health concern on its corrosive effects on tooth enamel.

Colour (Sunset Yellow)

Is a synthetic 'coal tar' that is yellow in colour use in foods such as orange jelly, Fanta, orange jelly etc. Some side effects such as urticaria, rhinitis and others have been associated with it. It is not recommended for children, as it has been linked with hyperacidity. Because of this, it has been ban in some countries like Norway and Finland. The required quantity approved for use in countries like the UK have reduced a lot. 
The acceptable daily intake is 0-4 mg/kg. There was a study by Southampton University on the effect of a mixture of sunset yellow with benzoate acid in children. The study found a possible link between the two compounds and hyperactivity in children.

Sodium Benzoate

They occur naturally in foods like cranberries. They are found everywhere in industrial products. They are produced in situations like burning hydrocarbons. Many processed food products such as Fanta contains it as it serves the purpose of preservative. It is mostly used in food that is acidic. It controls bacteria, moulds, yeast, and other microbes. 
There is no evidence of the chemical been poisonous or toxic alone. But according to some experiments, there is a chemical reaction that occurs when it combines with vitamin C. The resulting product is benzene. Although, this reaction is only possible in the presence of heat and light.
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Benzene

In chemistry, the chemical formula for benzene is C6H6. It is a very simple, not complex compound. This simple, less complex compound at high doses is a potential cause of cancer for consumers. The compound is formed when benzoic acid and vitamin C or erythorbic acid reacts. Benzoic acid is added in the form of salts like sodium, potassium or calcium salts. Citric acid, in the presence of ascorbic, erythorbic and benzoic acid can accelerate the production of benzene. However, it does not cause it when it is alone.
The UK health government rejected the products from Nigeria because the quantity of benzene in the final product was more than the standard. According to World Health Organisation (W.H.O), soft drinks are not supposed to contain more than 5 PPB (parts per billion) in the final product. That means that the soft drinks were rejected because it exceeded that. In addition, according to NBC, the quantity of benzoic acid preservative that can be used for producing drinks in Nigeria was not exceeded. For drinks not containing vitamin C, the maximum was set at 300 mg/ml. While for those with vitamin C, the maximum is at 250 mg/ml. This was not the case with that set by the UK government, which has theirs at 150 mg/ml when there is vitamin C in the product.
Now, considering these facts, is it not a good idea to use the measurement of benzene as a yardstick for assessment rather than quantity of preservative used? Obviously, that is what the UK government is using.
With the above information, it sure shows that benzene will definitely be produced in Fanta, as we all know that we live in a country with free light and heat (the sun). With Fanta, there is already vitamin C in it. Therefore, the warning not to be taken with vitamin C is a total waste. 
This is only applicable to Sprite. We have a very poor storage method coupled with the fact that the means of transportation exposes these drinks to further the sun. The longer they are heated, the more the quantity of benzene produced.
The only little inhibition of benzene production in soft drink is disodium E.D.T.A and sugars. However, can these stop it? Other countries have carried out research on these drinks and have given necessary precautions for those that have benzene in higher levels above 5 ppb in their products. This goes to show that with the two compounds above, benzene will be formed. 
One more thing; vitamin C can be obtained from Vit C tablet or from consuming foods or fruit high in this compound. Since a lot of fruits contain this compound, it becomes a dangerous combination to humans.
This topic, though, raised another important question in my head. Most medications use sodium benzoate as preservatives. Some of these drugs are prescribed to be taken with vitamin C. Could there be a reaction before or after taking it. Well, from all indications, it seems the compounds must be together before reactions can take place. In addition, since heat and light are required, this may not be possible in the stomach. However, I doubt if anyone can say for sure if it is safe without experimental evidence. The reason has been that apart from light and heat, metal ions (iron and copper) can also act as a catalyst.
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