The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has sent a warning signal to all farmers, traders and the general public to desist from the act of ripening fruits with calcium carbide, which is said to be very dangerous to health, as it is now regarded as a criminal offence.
The agency, through a press release signed by the Director General, Prof. Moji Adeyeye, said NAFDAC is commencing immediate nationwide monitoring of fruits markets to check activities of unscrupulous traders involved in illegal artificial ripening of fruits using hazardous chemicals such as calcium carbide, as perpetrators would be prosecuted.
According to the statement, “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”.
NAFDAC has therefore urged consumers to always examine fruits carefully to select the right fruit by observing the variation of colour. If the fruit that you buy is too good among others in “near perfect” ripening colour, it may have been ripened with calcium carbide. Fruits should be washed thoroughly under running water before consumption.
While highlighting effects of artificial ripening on fruit quality to include: loss of taste, colour, natural aroma, and less juicy. Banana and Plantain may be identified as artificially ripen if the fruits are all yellow whereas the stem is dark.
The agency has advised members of the public to report suspected cases to the nearest NAFDAC office or call any of these mobile lines for immediate response: 09094262773, 09094262772 and 08133630600.
Some of the health hazards of consuming fruits ripened with calcium carbide as listed by the statement are: “Consumption of fruits containing these impurities may cause cancer, heart, kidney and liver failure.
“They may 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.
“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”.