The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has warned against the consumption of artificially-ripened fruits, saying that they posed health hazards to the human body.
The agency, which listed the effect of artificial ripening on fruit quality included loss of properties, taste and feel without natural aroma and flavour to the fruits.
“These fruits do not possess uniform colour and are less juicy than when ripened naturally and have a comparatively shorter shelf life,” it stated.
Mojisola Adeyeye, director-general of the agency, who stated this during a one-day sensitisation workshop on the dangers of drug hawking and ripening of fruits which was held in Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital, said that fruit hawkers were fond of using a particular chemical compound known as calcium carbide to produce acetylene gas which she said acts like ethylene and ripens fruits faster.
“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, ” she said.
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Adeyeye, who was represented by Leonard Omokpariola, director, chemical, evaluation and research said 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.
“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, ” she said
She announced that apart from the sensitisation campaigns and Enforcement activities, 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,” she said.
The DG also raised the alarm against the menace of drug hawking to healthcare delivery system in the country, adding that many drug hawkers were “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.”
She said that most of the drugs sold by the illiterate and semi-literate drug hawkers were 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.
She called on all Nigerians to join in the campaign against the unwholesome practice of patronising fruits that are artificially ripened and drugs sold by hawkers.
The workshop was attended by participants drawn from journalists from other states in the South-South and South East zone as well as security operatives and members of the patent medicine dealers association.