The National Agency for Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC) on Thursday urged residents of Niger to stop selling, purchasing or consuming fruits that were artificially ripened with calcium carbide.
The NAFDAC Coordinator in Niger, Mr Anikoh Ibrahim, made the call when the agency organised an enlightenment campaign at Minna Central Market.
“The aim of carrying out this enlightenment campaign is to educate fruit sellers and the general public about the health hazards associated with the ripening of fruits with calcium carbide,’’ he said.
Ibrahim said that calcium carbide was a toxic, corrosive chemical with carcinogenic properties, adding that it contained traces of arsenic and phosphorus hydride.
He said that carbide produced acetylene gas (carbide gas), which accelerated the fruit-ripening process.
He noted that fruits, which were usually force-ripened with calcium carbide, included banana, plantain, pawpaw, mango and tomatoes, among others.
Ibrahim said that such fruits were usually very soft with black patches on their surfaces, adding that such fruits usually had substandard taste and shorter shelve-life.
He said that consumption of carbide-ripened fruits could cause arsenic or phosphorus poisoning, manifesting in symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea, as well as burning sensation in the chest and abdomen.
He said that the other symptoms of the ailment included weakness, difficulty in swallowing, cough or shortness of breath, eye damage, ulcer of the skin and sore throat.
Ibrahim said that the production of acetylene gas during the application of calcium carbide to force-ripe fruits could affect the neurological system of anyone who consumed such fruits.
He said that the effect on a person’s neurological system could be hypoxia, which was usually characterised by headache, dizziness, mood swings, sleepiness, mental confusion, memory loss, cerebral oedema and seizures.
He warned fruit sellers in the state to desist from force-ripening fruits with calcium carbide or be ready to face the wrath of the law.
Responding, Alhaji Ado Garba, the Mai Kasua (market chief) of Minna Central Market, commended NAFDAC for sensitising the public, especially unsuspecting consumers, to the dangers of carbide-ripened fruits.
He pledged that the market authorities would ensure that all the fruit sellers in the market complied with the agency’s directive and refrained from using calcium carbide to force-ripe fruits.