The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) on Tuesday said the consumption of fruits ripened with calcium carbide may cause cancer, heart failure, kidney failure, and liver failure.
The Director-General of the agency, Mojisola Adeyeye, made this known at the official flag-off of the agency’s media sensitisation workshop on dangers of drug hawking and ripening of fruits with calcium carbides.
Mrs Adeyeye, a professor, said calcium carbide generally contains impurities such as arsenic, lead particles, phosphorus, and others that pose several serious health hazards.
She said fruits containing these impurities may cause cancer, heart, kidney, and liver failure
She also noted that fruits ripened with calcium carbide may cause frequent thirst, irritation in mouth and nose, weakness, permanent skin damage, difficulty in swallowing, vomiting, and skin ulcer.
Mrs Adeyeye said although fruits provide the body with micronutrients that improve immunity and prevent diseases among other benefits, consumptions of fruits ripened with calcium carbide is dangerous to one’s health.
“Fruits artificially ripened with calcium carbide may be ripe on the skin, the inside remains unripe,” she said.
“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 banana and plantain. In addition, naturally ripened fruits usually have brown or black spots, while those artificially ripened have traces of powdery substances and peel off quickly.”
Public health challenge
Mrs Adeyeye said the ripening of fruits with carbide is a public health challenge and that the agency has deployed a multifaceted approach to tackle the menace.
The NAFDAC DG noted that the artificial ripening of fruits quality leads to the considerable loss of properties such as colour, taste and feel, and such practice does not give the natural aroma and flavour to the fruits.
“These fruits do not possess uniform colour and are less juicy than when ripened naturally and have comparatively shorter shelf life.”
She further explained that acetylene produced by calcium carbide affects the neurological system and reduces oxygen supply to the brain and further induces prolonged hypoxia.
She said these chemicals are hazardous to pregnant women and children and may lead to headaches, dizziness, mood disturbances, mental confusion, memory loss, swelling in the brain caused by excessive fluids, sleepiness, seizure, and others.
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The DG said the agency has commissioned a scientific study on the best approach towards mitigating the health hazards posed by ripening of fruits with carbides.
In his presentation, the Director, chemical evaluation and research of the agency, Leonard Omokpariola, said carbide usage as artificial fruit ripening agent is fraught with several problems.
Mr Omokpariola said carbide is explosive in nature and that studies have also shown that it breaks down the organic composition of vitamins and other micronutrients.
He said this chemical only changes the skin color of fruits while it remains raw inside.
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