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Fruits ripened with carbide dangerous

By Maria Famakinwa

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National Agency for Foods and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), sometimes ago, drew the attention of the pubic to various chemicals applied to fruits by traders to force them to ripe and warned consumers that such fruits are dangerous to the  health.

Findings, however,  revealed that the traders are capitalising on the fact that most Nigerians are now aware of the importance of healthy living,  for which fruits play vital roles to make abnormal profits. The traders believe waiting for the natural process for fruits to ripe will take longer time and will prevent them from making fast profits,  which explains why they resort to short cut of quickening the ripening process of fruits through chemicals that are harmful to health.

 The Director General of NAFDAC, Moji Adeyeye, revealed that calcium carbide has been used to quicken the ripening process of most fruits. She further said that carbide contains impurities and phosphorus and that consumption of fruits containing these impurities may cause cancer, heart, kidney and liver failure.

“Irritation of the mouth, nose, eye and skin, permanent skin damage, vomiting, difficulty in swallowing, sore throat, shortness of breath and numbness are some of other health hazard associated with coming in contact with carbide or ingesting any food item ripened using the chemical.”

The agency warned that fruits ripened with carbide lack nutrients, juice and are poisonous, because according to the regulatory agency, fruits ripening is a unique aspect of plant development which makes the fruit edible,  softer, sweeter, more nutritious and attractive but consuming any fruit ripened with calcium carbide is dangerous to the health.

The Hope spoke with some of the fruit sellers but they  were not ready to comment on the issue while most of the consumers who spoke with The Hope said that they were not aware of using carbide to force fruits to ripe until when they heard the news from NAFDAC, as they appealed to the authorities concerned to take urgent steps to address the issue and bring those culpable to book.

 A civil servant, Mrs Busayo Alade, who was once a victim of this deadly act of forcing fruits to ripe through carbide explained her ordeal, “I went to the market and bought ripe plantains of #400 because my children like fried plantains. After frying the plantains, I gave it to the two of them who were around and kept the remaining for others. Not quite long after eating the “dodo,”  one of them rushed to the toilet vomiting as I was attending to her, the second one developed stomach pains and was shouting mummy”. I was confused and  did not know what to do at that moment.

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I called my neighbour who quickly helped me with his car and took them to the hospital. It was at the hospital that the doctor discovered the fried plantains they ate was contaminated. Since then, I stopped going  to the market to buy ripe plantains for them. Instead, I will buy the unripe one and keep them  at home  to ripe naturally,” she revealed.

On what to do to correct it, she  appealed to the Federal Government to make a law that will criminalise the use of chemicals to quicken the ripening process of fruits which she maintained was the only way forward as she added that nothing can be achieved in the country without putting in place stiffer penalties.”What would have happened if my neighbour was not around to help me take my children to the hospital? This is why government at all levels must take  urgent steps against the idea of making fast profits at the expense of people’s lives. Many who have consumed chemical ripen fruits without knowing are battling with serious ailments. The three tiers of governments must act fast to save the lives of innocent Nigerians.”

Sharing a similar sentiment, a businessman, Mr Adewole Clement, who condemned the act in strong terms liken it to feeding the unsuspecting buyers with poison and called on relevant agencies in the State to treat it as a matter of urgency, as he also attributed the cause of most terminal diseases to chemicals used by traders to force fruits to ripe. “Why is it that some people are making money at the expense of another people’s lives? That, to me, is murder,  and any one found guilty of this wicked act should be treated as such. If fruits pass through the natural process of ripening,  gives the body the needed vitamins.

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“The most painful aspect of it  is that our vegetables are also contaminated with fertilizer used in planting them, so that they can be harvested on time and also look attractive to consumers without knowing that we are eating poison. The knowledge that fruits and vegetables are good components of the  balanced diet makes many citizens key into them,  not aware that most of them are poisonous,  due to chemicals applied on  them when planting or quickening the ripening process. There is need for public awareness on this issue because it concerns everybody and most consumers are ignorant of what they are consuming.

“All they think is going to the market and buying vegetables and fruits for good health, thus fulfilling the doctor’s advice.  But now that the fruits and vegetables are being contaminated with chemicals, there is need for pubic education on this harmful development especially on how to differentiate the fake from the original. NAFDAC should lead the campaign against this dangerous act through various mass media by educating the people on the dangers of consuming chemically  ripened fruits and how to differentiate between them.

“I will not be surprised if this is the reason why most citizens of this country are battling with various health challenges. At times, when you eat some fruits, it will be tasteless, but now I understand better. NAFDAC should not  stop at educating the pubic, they should go further to those selling fruits and vegetables and arrest any of them discovered to be engaging in using carbide to force fruits to ripe and those selling vegetables grown with fertilizers. If these are done, it will help to send a warning to others in the business, correct the idea and improve on the quality of life of Nigerians.

“Consumers should also be told to report any of such cases to the nearest NAFDAC office for immediate action. If sellers are aware that they can be reported to the NAFDAC  by the consumers, it will  go a long way to address the trend of using chemicals to ripen fruits. NAFDAC should also release some telephone numbers that the general public can call if such a situation is discovered any where across the country for immediate action. Taking these steps will go a long way to correct the bad act because consuming contaminated fruits and vegetables is deadly.

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A teacher,  Mrs Joy Chika, while calling on NAFDAC to swing into action immediately said that efforts should not be spared towards ensuring that all foods, drinks and drugs taken in the country are properly monitored and certified healthy for human consumption. She said: “Concentration should not  be on fruits and vegetables alone, even most of the energy  drinks in  several shops today affects the heart and these are  the favourite drink of most  youths.”

 Chika, who appealed to parents to be watchful while shopping for fruits and other food items revealed that those fruits forced to ripe with the aid of chemicals have no nutritional value, instead exposes one’s health to serious and avoidable hazards. She said: “I bought banana in one of the markets in Akure and when I was about giving my children, I noticed some whitish substances on it.  Immediately I knew it was one of those already poisoned fruit brought to the market for sale. While this sign is not easily discovered in other fruits, consumers who are very observant can easily notice them in plantains and bananas by checking the handle for whitish substances.”

On the way forward, he appealed to the Federal Government, NAFDAC, Minister of Health and relevant agencies to come together and strategise so that innocent souls can be saved from what she termed human wickedness to fellow human.  She also urged authorities concerned  to make use of mass media to educate the general public against buying chemically  ripened fruits and make a law against the act so that any one caught in such a deadly act will be made to face the wrath of the law.

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