Nutritionists, public health officials and medical experts, interviewed by NAN, have warned of the dangers in artificial ripening of fruits.
The health officials made their views known in a national survey conducted by NAN on the health implications of the practice.
Kunle Ashimi, a medical doctor, said the federal government must put in place measures to check it, saying the chemicals used contain carcinogenic agents which cause cancer.
He said: “Naturally, fruits ripen after attainment of proper maturity by a sequence of physical and biochemical events and the process is irreversible, ultimately leading to senescence.
“Whether fruits ripen on the plant or after harvest, the general ripening changes associated with the ripening process are easily recognisable.
“During natural process of ripening, fruits soften, change colour and develop characteristic aroma and flavour. There is also a reduction in sourness (acids) and increase in the sweetness.”
Similarly, Mibaudeen Lawal, coordinator of health and environmental, Basic Registry and Information System in Nigeria (BRISIN), warned that kidney disease is associated with articifial ripening of fruits.
Lawal said other health challenges include gastrointestinal irritation, nausea, cardiac disturbance and depression.
He said fruit sellers use calcium carbide, an industrial grade product, to ripen fruits quickly.
The doctor explained that calcium carbide contains traces of arsenic, lead particles and phosphorus hydride as impurities.
He said the acetylene released by calcium carbide has been found to affect the neurological system and reduces oxygen supply to the brain while inducing prolonged hypoxia.
Lawal warned that pregnant women as well as children run the risks of having headache, dizziness, mood disturbances, mental confusion, memory loss, swelling in the brain caused by excessive fluids, sleepiness and seizure.
He said some people may get stomach upset after eating carbide-ripened fruits.
Speaking in the same vein, Henrietta Ugwu, a nutrition officer, Enugu State Primary Healthcare Development Agency, told NAN that chemically-induced ripen fruits might be the cause of the upsurge in non-communicable diseases in the country.
Ugwu said: “Non-communicable diseases for some time now are on the increase and some health experts had attributed it to our lifestyle and the food we eat.
“It is bad and evil that we pluck a fruit today and expect it to ripen within a day or two, thus, disrupting the natural ripening circle of the fruit.”
Giving her take on the subject, Edith Nnadi of the department of food and nutrition, University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN), advised that washing of fruits before eating could reduce the effect of the chemicals.
“It is advisable to wash fruits very well since you do not know if calcium carbide was used by the dealer or seller to ripen the fruit, such as orange, banana, water melon and mangoes,” Nnadi said.
“Calcium carbide has the ability to alter cells into cancerous cells as well as cause other harms to the body. In many countries is an offence to use calcium carbide in ripening fruits.”
Meanwhile, Olajumoke Ojetokun, south-east director of NAFDAC, condemned the practice, saying, “we have detailed our field and surveillance officers to be on the lookout for Nigerians who engage in forceful ripening of fruits and selling same to our people.
“The agency also needed the information and intelligence of Nigerians, especially as it concerns reporting those in their neighbourhoods engaging in this negative practice.”
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