On Tuesday, during the official commencement of the agency’s media sensitization workshop concerning the risks associated with drug hawking and the use of calcium carbide for fruit ripening, the NAFDAC director expressed the following. She acknowledged that the ripening of fruits using carbide is a significant issue for the public, and in response, the agency has implemented a comprehensive strategy to address this problem.
“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.
“Fruits artificially ripened with calcium carbide may be ripe on the skin, but the inside remains unripe. 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 bananas and plantains.
“In addition, naturally ripened fruits usually have brown or black spots, while those artificially ripened have traces of powdery substances and peel off quickly,” she said.
Adeyeye noted that the artificial ripening of fruit quality leads to a large 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 a comparatively shorter shelf life. Calcium Carbide when sprayed with water reacts chemically to produce acetylene, which acts like ethylene and ripens fruits by a similar process,” she said.
“Calcium carbide generally contains impurities such as arsenic, lead particles, phosphorus and others that pose several very serious health hazards. Consumption of fruits containing these impurities may cause cancer, heart, kidney and liver failure. They may also cause frequent thirst, irritation in the 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 the lungs.
“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, swelling in the brain caused by excessive fluids, sleepiness, seizure, and others.”
She continued the clarifications by saying that 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, burning or tingling sensation in abdomen and chest difficulty in swallowing, irritation in eyes, and skin, sore throat, cough, shortness of breath, and numbness”, she reiterated.