The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control says it will commence immediate nationwide monitoring of fruit markets to check activities of some traders involved in artificial ripening of fruits.
The Director-General of NAFDAC, Prof. Moji Adeyeye, said this in a statement in Abuja on Tuesday.
Adeyeye stated that the agency decided to take the measure because it had become common practice among some desperate traders and farmers to hasten the process of fruit ripening using hazardous chemicals like calcium carbide.
She noted that “NAFDAC has noticed the dangerous practice of sale and consumption of fruits artificially ripened with calcium carbide.
“As part of our mandate, NAFDAC is on high alert to respond to any practice or process that will jeopardise the health of the population.
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“Fruits provide the body with micro-nutrients 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.”
According to her, the effect of artificial ripening on fruit quality, including properties such as colour, taste and feel are lost considerably and does not give the natural aroma and flavour to the fruits.
The NAFDAC boss stated that these fruits, although possess uniform colour, were less juicy than when ripened naturally and have comparatively shorter shelf life.
Adeyeye added that artificially ripened fruits may be ripe on the skin but unripe inside.
She noted that calcium carbide, when sprayed with water, react chemically to produce acetylene, which act like ethylene and ripen fruits by a similar process.
She stated that calcium carbide generally contain impurities such as arsenic, lead particles and phosphorus, which pose a number of serious health hazards.
She added that “these impurities may cause serious health problems when consumed.
“The consumption of such fruits containing these impurities may cause cancer, heart, kidney and liver failure.”
Adeyeye, therefore, warned farmers, traders and the public that ripening fruits with calcium carbide was dangerous to health and a criminal offence, and perpetrators would be prosecuted.