By; PATRICK TITUS, Uyo
The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has advised Nigerians against eating fruits ripened with Calcium Carbides, warning that it poses serious health hazards.
Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye stated this in a keynote address presented at a-one-day media sensitization workshop on the dangers of drug hawking and ripening of fruits with calcium carbide organised by the South South Zone of the Agency in Uyo on Thursday.
Noting the dangers of this unwholesome practice to public health, Prof Adeyeye said NAFDAC has deployed a multifaceted approach to tackling the menace.
According NAFDAC DG, “Fruits provide the body with micronutrients that improve immunity and prevent diseases among other benefits. Fruit ripening is a unique aspect of plant development, which makes the fruit edible, softer, sweeter, more palatable, nutritious, and attractive.
“However, the consumption of fruits such as mango, banana, plantain, guava, orange, grape, etc or any other fruits ripened with calcium carbide is dangerous to health.
“Fruits artificially ripened with calcium carbide may be ripe on the skin, the inside remain unripe. You can identify such artificially ripened fruits if you notice that the fruits are all yellow whereas the stem is dark, this is true especially with banana and plantain. In addition, naturally ripened fruits usually have brown or black spots, while those artificially ripened have traces of powdery substances and peel off quickly.” Prof Adeyeye said.
Stressing more on the effects of artificial ripening on fruit quality, Prof Adeyeye, who was represented by the Director, Chemical Evaluation and Research, Dr Leonard Omokpariola said that it causes a considerable loss of properties such as colour, taste and feel and such practice does not give the natural aroma and flavour to the fruits.
She explained that these fruits do not possess uniformed colour and are less juicy than when ripened naturally and have comparatively shorter shelf life.
“Calcium Carbide when sprayed with water reacts chemically to produce acetylene, which acts like ethylene and ripens fruits by a similar process.
“Calcium carbide generally contains impurities such as arsenic, lead particles, phosphorus, etc., that pose several very serious health hazards.
“Consumption of fruits containing these impurities may cause cancer, heart, kidney and liver failure. They may also cause frequent thirst, irritation in mouth and nose, weakness, permanent skin damage, difficulty in swallowing, vomiting, skin ulcer and so forth. Higher exposure may cause undesired fluid build-up in lungs (pulmonary oedema).
“Acetylene produced by Calcium Carbide affects the neurological system and reduces oxygen supply to the brain and further induces prolonged hypoxia.
“The impurities are hazardous to pregnant women and children and may lead to headache, dizziness, mood disturbances, mental confusion, memory loss, cerebral oedema (swelling in the brain caused by excessive fluids), sleepiness, seizure etc.
“Calcium Carbide is alkaline in nature and erodes the mucosal tissue in the abdominal region and disrupts intestinal functions. Consuming such artificially ripened fruits could result in sleeping disorders, mouth ulcers, skin rashes, kidney problems and possibly even cancer.” The DG said
On the hawking of drugs, Prof Adeyeye also warned that any hawker arrested by NAFDAC would be prosecuted, and sentenced to a jail term.
“Drugs are sensitive life-saving commodities which should not be sold on the streets/motor parks or open markets just like any other article of trade. I wish to warn that any Drug Hawker arrested by NAFDAC will be prosecuted, will face a jail term, and our Enforcement Officers are currently carrying out synchronized nation-wide operation. No offender will be spared from facing the full wrath of the Law,” DG posited.