The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has issued a cautionary alert to Nigerians, advising them to refrain from purchasing and consuming fruits that have been artificially ripened using calcium carbide.
The Director-General of NAFDAC, Mojisola Adeyeye, conveyed this warning during the South East NAFDAC Zone Media Sensitization Workshop held in Awka, the capital of Anambra State. The event, organized by NAFDAC for the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists, aimed to shed light on the dangers of drug hawking and the use of calcium carbide for fruit ripening.
Adeyeye, represented by Dr. Leonard Omokpariola, NAFDAC’s Director of Chemical Evaluation and Research, emphasized that consuming fruits artificially ripened with calcium carbide could lead to severe health risks, including cancer, heart failure, kidney failure, and liver failure. She pointed out that calcium carbide often contains harmful impurities such as arsenic, lead particles, and phosphorus, which pose significant health hazards.
The NAFDAC Director-General explained that the consumption of such artificially ripened fruits could result in various adverse health effects, including excessive thirst, irritation in the mouth and nose, weakness, skin damage, difficulty swallowing, vomiting, and skin ulcers.
While acknowledging that fruits offer essential micronutrients that enhance immunity and prevent diseases, Adeyeye underscored the dangers associated with consuming artificially ripened fruits. She advised consumers to be vigilant and cautious when identifying artificially ripened fruits, mentioning that their appearance might differ from naturally ripened ones. Specifically, she noted that artificially ripened bananas and plantains could exhibit a yellow skin with a dark stem.
Adeyeye highlighted that the practice of artificially ripening fruits using calcium carbide could lead to a loss of quality attributes such as color, taste, and texture. She also mentioned that these artificially ripened fruits lack the natural aroma and flavor of naturally ripened ones, in addition to being less juicy and having a shorter shelf life.
Furthermore, the NAFDAC DG emphasized that the production of acetylene gas from calcium carbide can negatively impact the neurological system, leading to reduced oxygen supply to the brain and inducing prolonged hypoxia. She cautioned that these chemicals could be particularly hazardous to pregnant women and children, potentially causing various neurological symptoms and complications.
Adeyeye acknowledged the alarming practice of selling and consuming artificially ripened fruits in the Nigerian market, as well as the illicit hawking of drugs. NAFDAC’s efforts to educate the public about the risks associated with these practices reflect its commitment to ensuring the safety and well-being of consumers across the country.