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NAFDAC warns against fruits of death

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By Abraham Adekunle

Many die or battle health challenges from taking artificially ripened fruit.

As an addendum to the warning issued by the National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), the director-general of the agency also issued a statement on the danger of consuming fruits ripened with chemicals. This was at the workshop organized on the dangers of drug hawking and ripening of fruits with calcium carbide. At the workshop, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, said that the agency has noticed the dangerous practice and is doing everything within their power to curtail it.

Ripening of fruits with chemicals is a public challenge facing the country today. The agency has deployed a multifaceted approach in response to the problem. According to the NAFDAC boss, consuming fruits such as mango, banana, plantain, guava, orange, grape, etc., or any other fruits ripened with the chemical is dangerous to health. This is besides the fact that fruits provide the body with micronutrients that improve immunity and prevent diseases. But when unscrupulous traders engage in this practice, the consumers will ingest the chemicals along with the nutrients in them.

Calcium carbide contains impurities that can cause health hazards.

Participants of the workshop, which was organized by the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists in collaboration with NAFDAC, were drawn from Katsina, Kaduna, Kano and Zamfara states. According to Adeyeye, when calcium carbide is sprayed with water, it reacts chemically to produce acetylene which acts like ethylene and ripens fruits by a similar process. Also known as calcium acetylide, the chemical’s main use industrially is in the production of acetylene (widely used as fuel) and calcium cyanamide (which can be used as fertilizer).

Apart from these, the chemical is also useful in steelmaking, specifically in the desulfurization of iron, as a fuel in steelmaking, and as a powerful deoxidizer at ladle treatment facilities. It is also used in making carbide lamps. All indications point to the fact that this chemical is not safe for human consumption in any form, whether directly or indirectly. The chemical generally contains impurities such as arsenic, lead particles, phosphorus, etc., that pose several very serious health hazards. Adeyeye said that consumption of fruits containing these impurities may cause cancer as well as heart, kidney and liver failure.

One amidst a number of warnings by NAFDAC and medical experts.

Previously, Prof. Adeyeye had warned about the dangers of drug hawking. She referred to drug hawkers as merchants of death. This means that the hawkers are actually carrying about materials that could severely affect anyone who uses them and potentially cause death. However, people still buy because of the medical situation of the country. Nigeria’s medical expenditure data shows that more than 70 percent of it are out-of-pocket. It is logical that many would avoid going to hospital for check-up and even avoid standard pharmacies because the drugs are very expensive.

Similarly, the situation applies to food consumed by people. Recently, scientists have argued for the adoption of genetically modified crops, also known as GMO. However, there are concerns that GMO could cause gene flow, biodiversity loss and health-related problems. If these products are produced, do people of the lower class have any other option other than consuming such? Is anyone regardless of economic status sure of not having consumed fruits ripened with chemicals? When situations like this occur, one can only do one’s best. Decades ago, this practice was not that common, but today’s economic realities may have engineered traders to make money even though it is at the buyer’s detriment.

Adeyeye pledged to rid Nigeria of substandard food and medicine.

At the workshop, she re-affirmed NAFDAC’s determination to rid the country of the menace of substandard and falsified medicines, unwholesome foods, corrosive cosmetics, and other substandard regulated products. She revealed that apart from sensitization campaigns and Enforcement activities, NAFDAC has commissioned a scientific study on the best approach towards mitigating the health hazards posed by ripening of fruits with carbides. “I have mandated some of my directors and support staff to take these campaigns to the nook and cranny of this country,” she said. The organizers also announced that about 800 journalists from across the six geopolitical zones in the country will be trained so that they will report the issues at stake from an informed perspective.

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