The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has cautioned the public against consumption of fruits artificially ripened with calcium carbide.
The agency through its Director General (DG) Moji Adeyeye, on Tuesday, also expressed concerns over illegal hawking of drugs in the open markets across the country, reiterating its determination to rid Nigeria of the menace of substandard and falsified medicines, unwholesome foods, corrosive cosmetics and other substandard regulated products.
According to NAFDAC, it had noticed the dangerous practice of sale and consumption of fruits artificially ripened with calcium carbide, describing it as dangerous to human health.
Note that ripening is a unique aspect of plant development, which makes the fruit edible, softer, sweeter, more palatable, nutritious, and attractive.
In a keynote address at the flag-off of NAFDAC Media Sensitization Workshop on Dangers of Drug Hawking and Ripening of Fruits with Calcium Carbide in Abuja, Adeyeye regretted the nefarious activities by certain unpatriotic and unscrupulous citizens in the country.
She however urged Nigerians to desist from patronizing fruits ripened with calcium carbide to avoid endangering their health.
“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,” she said.
While noting that ripening of fruits with carbides was another public challenge facing Nigeria at present, the NAFDAC boss said the agency had deployed a multifaceted approach to tackle the menace.
The DG listed the effect of artificial ripening on fruit quality to include but not limited to “considerable loss of properties such as colour, taste and feel, and such practice does not give the natural aroma and flavour to the fruits.
“These fruits do not possess uniform 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).”
“Consuming such artificially ripened fruits could result in sleeping disorders, mouth ulcers, skin rashes, kidney problems and possibly even cancer.
“Other symptoms of poisoning include diarrhoea (with or without blood), burning or tingling sensation in abdomen and chest difficulty in swallowing, irritation in eyes/skin, sore throat, cough, shortness in breathing, numbness etc.
“NAFDAC has commissioned a scientific study on the best approach towards mitigating the health hazards posed by ripening of fruits with carbides.
“I have mandated some of my directors and support staff to take these campaigns to the nooks and crannies of this country. We are confident of winning the war against these two hydra-headed public health menaces.”
Addressing illegal hawking of drugs in open markets, Adeyeye said: “The menace of drug hawking poses serious challenge to healthcare delivery system in the country and this underscored NAFDAC’s resolute determination to totally eradicate the illicit trade.
“Many drug hawkers are knowingly or unknowingly merchants of death who expose essential and life saving medicines to the vagaries of inclement weather which degrade the active ingredients of the medicine and turn them to poisons, thus endangering human lives.
“Most of the drugs sold by the illiterate and semi-literate drug hawkers are counterfeit, substandard or expired, and therefore do not meet the quality, safety and efficacy requirement of regulated medicines.
“Prescription drugs are also sold by the itinerant drug hawkers who also hold consultation, recommend and prescribe medicines to their gullible patients.
According to her,”Drug hawkers are also the major distributors and suppliers of narcotic medicines to criminal networks such as armed bandits, insurgents, kidnappers and armed robbers. Drug hawkers constitute serious threat to our national security.
“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. In this regard, we solicit the co-operation and support of all other law enforcement agencies.”