• Monday, December 11, 2023
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Erisco CEO threatens N5bn lawsuit against tomato paste reviewer

Erisco food

Eric Umeofia, CEO of Erisco Foods Limited, has threatened to sue Chioma Egodi for N5 billion if she refuses to post an apology letter on her Facebook page “as agreed.”

Egodi had in a Facebook post on September 17, 2023, claimed she bought Nagiko Tomato Mix, a product of Erisco Foods, the previous day, and that it tasted too much sugar. She said she had intended to purchase her regular brands, Gino or Sonia, but they were not readily available.

Her post generated reactions and forced the management of the company to involve the police through a petition to Kayode Egbetokun, the Inspector General of Police. She was arrested, triggering the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission to call for her release.

“I will sue her for N5 billion if she does not comply with posting the apology on her social media page,” the founder of Erisco Foods declared, noting that Egodi could not provide proof to back up her claims when asked to do so.

Read also: NAFDAC issues warning against use of unapproved diabetes drug

Speaking during an interview on Arise TV’s Global Business Report, Umeofia defended the company’s decision to involve law enforcement, alleging that they suspected Egodi had been financially incentivised to damage its brand.

“She is not a customer,” he said on the show monitored by BusinessDay, emphasising Erisco Foods’ allegiance to delivering top-quality products within the Nigerian tomato paste industry.

Though he confirmed that the product reviewer has written an apology letter, he disclosed that she has refused to post same on her Facebook page “as agreed.”

According to him, the woman could not state the batch number or other information about the Nagiko Tomato Mix she alleged tasted too much sugar.

Addressing the product’s taste issue, Umeofia acknowledged that it might have a sweet flavor, given that the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) had authorised the inclusion of sugar in the Nagiko Tomato Mix. He likened this to consuming soft drinks and then complaining about their sugar content, suggesting that dissatisfied customers should consider alternative products.

The development, however, prompted the Foundation for Investigative Journalism (FIJ) to run some checks on the registration status and regulatory approvals with which the tomato producer operates in the country.

As a food company, its activities fall under the purview of NAFDAC. The regulator, among other things, classifies and certifies food products as safe for consumption. It also issues renewable approvals to food manufacturers in the country.

NAFDAC maintains a publicly accessible online database containing all approved food and drug manufacturing companies in Nigeria and regularly updates the portal with latest information about each product.

From FIJ’s findings, Erisco had 58 different products approved by NAFDAC with details of each product’s classification and approval provided on the website.

According to the details available on the NAFDAC portal as of the time of this publication, all the approvals granted to manufacture the products had expired.

Findings further showed that the Nagiko Tomato Paste Mix bought and reviewed by Egodi was not among the 58 products available on the regulator’s portal. Repeated searches by FIJ failed to return any response.