The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has issued a caution to the public about the serious risks associated with consuming fruits ripened using calcium carbide and purchasing medications from street vendors, highlighting the potential for fatal outcomes.
Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye, the Director-General of NAFDAC, addressed this matter during a media awareness workshop titled “Dangers of drug hawking and ripening of fruits with calcium carbide,” which took place in Awka, the capital of Anambra State, on Tuesday.
Adeyeye, whose speech was delivered by Dr. Leonard Omokpariola, NAFDAC’s Director of Chemical Evaluation and Research, emphasized the perilous nature of the chemicals found in calcium carbide. She noted that these chemicals are particularly hazardous for pregnant women and children, causing symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, mood fluctuations, mental confusion, memory impairment, brain swelling due to excess fluid, sleepiness, seizures, and more.
The workshop, organized by NAFDAC in collaboration with the Association of Nigeria Health Journalists, South-East Zone, aimed to educate residents of the region about the potential dangers and risks linked to these practices.
Adeyeye urged against the consumption of fruits ripened with calcium carbide, highlighting potential health issues such as cancer, heart, kidney, and liver failure. She also mentioned that fruits artificially ripened with calcium carbide could be identified by their uniform yellow color, contrasting with naturally ripened fruits that exhibit brown or black spots.
Since 2019, NAFDAC has taken significant measures to address these concerns, including public awareness campaigns, enforcement actions, and intelligence-driven raids on fruit markets resulting in the confiscation and disposal of non-compliant products. Adeyeye noted that a scientific study had been commissioned to determine the best approach to mitigating the health hazards linked to the artificial ripening of fruits with carbides.
Furthermore, she explained that acetylene produced by calcium carbide could impact the neurological system, impair oxygen supply to the brain, and lead to prolonged hypoxia. Artificially ripened fruits often lack the natural aroma, flavor, and qualities of naturally ripened fruits, with less uniform color and reduced juiciness, ultimately resulting in a shorter shelf life.
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