NIGERIA – The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has warned consumers not to consume fruits that have been artificially ripened with calcium carbide.

The agency reiterated its intention to rid Nigeria of the menace of substandard unwholesome foods, and other substandard regulated products as it raised concerns.

NAFDAC  noted that the agency was not oblivious to the practice of artificially ripening fruits that has taken root in the country.

Ripening is a unique aspect of plant development, which makes the fruit edible, softer, sweeter, more palatable, nutritious, and attractive.

Director General of NAFDAC, Prof. Moji Adeyeye, expressed regret for the nefarious activities of some unpatriotic and dishonest citizens in the country during her keynote speech at the flag-off of NAFDAC Media Sensitization Workshop on Dangers of Drug Hawking and Ripening of Fruits with Calcium Carbide in Abuja.

She advised Nigerians to stop buying fruits that had been ripened with calcium carbide in order to protect 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.

Artificial ripening takes out the fruit’s natural aroma and flavour and also shortens its shelf life.

Calcium Carbide when sprayed with water reacts chemically to produce acetylene, which acts like ethylene and ripens fruits by a similar process.

It 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),” Adeyeye said.

Consuming such artificially ripened fruits, according to her, 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.

The NAFDAC has commissioned a scientific investigation to determine the best strategy for reducing the risks to human health presented by carbide-ripened fruits.

“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,”said the NAFDAC boss.

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