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    Erisco Foods Didn’t State The Amount Of Sugar In Their Tomato Mix

    The beauty of this app is that it is a true marketplace of knowledge, a place of collaborative learning.

    I learn on this platform everyday. I’ll get to that part shortly.

    In the past couple of days, the ERISCO-Chioma defamation matter has acquired a life of its own and become a hot topic of national discussion.

    The legal case too has become more complicated than the pro-ERISCO commentators would like to admit.

    For one thing, Chioma’s original comment was not a product review per se. It was a social media post about what she thought of the Erisco tomato mix she had purchased.

    She not only compared it to the tomato products she used to buy, which she claimed were not available when she purchased the Erisco product; she also invited her social media followers to share their own observations and experiences.

    If her intention was to smear ERISCO’s product as some people are claiming, she would not have solicited other people’s experiences with, and views on, the product, which could be radically different from and contradict her own.

    Secondly, Chioma didn’t say the product she bought kills people literally. To read her comment literally is mischievous and such a reading will not wash in a courtroom.

    She said it contained too much sugar. Excessive sugar consumption causes diabetes, obesity, and other health problems that kill people.

    And this is not Chioma’s opinion or claim but an established scientific and medical fact that’s part of every dietary and biomedical manual of healthy living and disease prevention.

    By the way, in the legal context, it’s also significant that she wrote those words in response to someone else’s comment, in a conversational context. She didn’t just wake up and say “tell your brother to stop killing people with his product.”

    Now, to the knowledge part.

    Someone on my page highlighted a significant angle to this matter that I had neglected and hadn’t thought of. Without preempting what defense lawyer Inebehe Effiong intends to present, this angle significantly boosts Chioma’s defense and damages the case of Erisco.

    It turns out that the tomato mix Chioma bought and posted about has only a listing of the ingredients in it, including sugar, but not the percentages of these ingredients (see picture below).

    That will be the koko of the legal case. Or should be.

    The defense will demand that Erisco disclose the percentage of the sugar content or demand an independent lab analysis to determine the percentage vis-à-vis other ingredients, especially the sugar-tomato ratio.

    The result will likely bolster Chioma’s claim that the product is loaded with sugar and can cause chronic diseases that kill people.

    It could also show that Erisco violated standards of sugar content set for this product type by NAFDAC, which could spell regulatory trouble for Erisco.

    Even if NAFDAC, a typical “anyhow” Nigerian regulatory agency, does not demand or enforce particular sugar percentage limit for this category of tomato product, the disclosure of the sugar content percentage could nonetheless be a death knell of this “tomato mix” product at a time of increased awareness of the health implications of excessive sugar consumption.

    More significantly, for the legal case, it would lend veracity to Chioma’s claim that the product is packed full of sugar, which is harmful to health. If a statement is true or plausible, legally speaking, there’s no defamation, period.

    For Nigerians, this case has a significance that many are missing. It will hold a giant mirror to our canned food industry, exposing their arguably misleading product contend disclosure practices and forcing them to display more specific (percentage) product content information.

    By the way, as the picture below shows, Erisco even claims that the “tomato mix” is “100% natural” when the list of ingredients on the pouch clearly shows that the product is not “100% natural.”

    This case will also hopefully force NAFDAC to require the listing of such product ingredient percentages on canned food product labels if it does not already do so.

    For all these reasons, I personally want to see this case go to trial. There is a public interest and public health stake here, and Nigerians will be the winner, whatever the outcome/verdict.

    So, no one should be asking for an out-of-court settlement. Let the lawyers on both sides prepare for legal fireworks. This case is now bigger than Chioma and ERISCO.

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