Court affirms order for Coca-Cola to label its soft drinks

Court of Appeal has dismissed an appeal filed by international beverage manufacturer Coca-Cola Company challenging an order to place labels on nutrition value and customer contacts on its soft-drink glass bottles.

While agreeing with the High Court, a three-judge bench of Hannah Okwengu, Dr Imaana Laibuta and John Mativo unanimously agreed that it was discriminatory for the firm to indicate the nutritional value of its products on plastic bottles but leave out those on glass ones.

In its appeal, Coca-Cola subsidiary Nairobi Bottlers Ltd faulted late Justice Joseph Onguto’s ruling, saying that he ended up legislating in his judgment.

The firm also argued that the High Court failed to consider that Mark Ndumia, the man who had lodged the case, had admitted that he no longer took sodas owing to a doctor’s recommendation after suffering from ulcers.

It stated the requirement to provide nutritional value was not binding as it was a distributor, adding that Ndumia had jumped the gun as he had not lodged a complaint before the Kenya Consumers Protection Advisory Committee.

Coca Cola ordered to include nutrition information on all its soft drinks

However, the Court of Appeal yesterday said the case concerned the Bill of Rights and was properly before the High Court. Judges also found that Coca-Cola owes its consumers a right to information on what they are taking, the company’s customer care contacts, and the storage process.

They were of the view that even if consumers have a choice to opt for either plastic or glass bottles, there was no solid reason to provide information on plastic bottles but leave the same out on glass ones.

“We find that the differential treatment of the consumers of Coca-Cola products in plastic and glass bottles is not connected to a legitimate purpose or, for good reason, justifiable.

"The differential treatment of the consumers of Coca-Cola products in glass bottles deprives them of the constitutionally guaranteed right to be aware of the nutritional information of their preferred beverage. It deprives them access to customer care if needed, in case they have a complaint they wish to raise," the bench headed by Justice Okwengu ruled.

In the appeal, the firm argued that the verdict by the High Court created a law, which is the work of Parliament.

The firm further argued that the judge did not consider its evidence that there was no proof that sodas were contributors to non-communicable and nutrition-related diseases.

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