Consumers susceptible to cancer, kidney failure
Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
The Director General of the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, has warned Nigerians against the consumption of carbide-ripened fruits, saying they can cause cancer and heart, kidney, and liver failures.
Director General of NAFDAC, Professor Mojisola Adeyeye who gave the warning, also said fruits ripened with calcium carbide “may cause frequent thirst, irritation in the mouth and nose, weakness, permanent skin damage, difficulty in swallowing, vomiting, and skin ulcer.”
The NAFDAC boss who stated this on Tuesday at the official flag-off of the agency’s media sensitisation workshop on the dangers of drug hawking and ripening of fruits with calcium carbides, cautioned members of the public to avoid any fruit ripened with chemicals.
She, however, hinted that the agency had commissioned a scientific study on the best approach to mitigate the health hazards posed by fruits ripened with chemicals.
Adeyeye declared war against the harmful practice of using chemicals to ripen fruits, vowing that any trader caught using chemicals to ripen fruits would be prosecuted.
“Fruits provide the body with micro-nutrients 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, but the inside remains 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 bananas and plantains. In addition, naturally ripened fruits usually have brown or black spots, while those artificially ripened have traces of powdery substances and peel off quickly,” she said.
According to the NAFDAC DG, fruits ripened with chemicals lose their natural taste and colour, and become poisonous, hence it should be avoided.
“These fruits do not possess uniform colour and are less juicy than when ripened naturally and have a 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 and others 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 the 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 the lungs.
“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, swelling in the brain caused by excessive fluids, sleepiness, seizure, and others.
“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, burning or tingling sensation in abdomen and chest difficulty in swallowing, irritation in eyes, and skin, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, and numbness.”