It will no longer be business as usual for illegal drug hawkers, as the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), has set up enforcement units in the states to arrest and prosecute offenders, to save the lives of Nigerians
Mojisola Adeyeye, the director-general, NAFDAC, gave the warning in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, at a sensitisation workshop on “dangers of drug hawking and ripening of fruits with calcium carbide. She said many Nigerians were suffering from diseases such as cancer, heart, kidney and liver failure because they unknowingly consumed fake drugs or fruits ripened with calcium carbide by the sellers.
The DG said that drug hawking posed a serious challenge to the healthcare delivery system in the country, hence the agency’s determination to eradicate the illicit trade.
Adeyeye, who was represented by Leonard Omokpariola, director of chemical evaluation and research, NAFDAC, said that it was unfortunate that these hawkers were deliberately poisoning Nigerians in the name of business.
She said that fruits provide the body with micronutrients that improve immunity and prevent diseases among other benefits and ripening was a unique aspect of plant development, which makes the fruit edible, softer, sweeter, more palatable, nutritious, and attractive.
However, doing so with calcium carbide is a death sentence for consumers, as acetylene produced by calcium carbide affects the neurological system and reduces oxygen supply to the brain and further induces prolonged hypoxia.
Adeyeye said that the impurities were 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.
She said that fruits artificially ripened with calcium carbide may be ripe on the skin, but the inside remains unripe, stressing that one can identify such artificially ripened fruits if one notices that the fruits are all yellow whereas the stem is dark.
According to NAFDAC, the above was true, especially with banana and plantain, adding that naturally ripened fruits usually have brown or black spots, while those artificially ripened have traces of powdery substances and peel off quickly.
He said that the effect of artificial ripening on fruit quality includes but not limited to considerable loss of properties such as colour, taste and feel.
“These fruits do not possess uniform colour and are less juicy than when ripened naturally and have a comparatively shorter shelf life.
“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 NAFDAC boss added.