By Abasi Ita
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control, NAFDAC, has cautioned members of the public to be weary of procuring drugs from hawkers and consuming fruits that has been ripened with the aid of calcium carbide.
The agency raised the alarm in Uyo during its Media Sensitization workshop on “Dangers of Drug Hawking and Ripening of fruits with Calcium Carbide” organised for South South
Members of the Association of Health Journalists.
In his paper at the workshop titled “Danger of Artificially Ripening Fruits With Calcium Carbide”Leonard Omokpariola, who is the Director Chemical Evaluation and Research at the Agency listed the dangers associated with the use of the substance.to to include cancer and severe damage to delicate internal organs of the body.
He pointed out that “The use of this substance is really gaining popularity
that is why we have opted to embark on this sensitization workshop. Before now, it was being used for just few fruits but right now it is getting wider dimensions.”
“Maybe as a result of economic issues in the country, a lot of people do not allow their fruits to ripen naturally before they harvest them and because of the transport infrastructure and the challenge of moving things from the rural to the urban areas, this problem is really escalating.”
He revealed that “Calcium Carbide breaks down all the essential nutrients, micro nutrients, minerals and vitamins inside the food and thereby converting them into other toxic chemicals in those fruits.
“In addition, the carbide itself has two poisonous substances that is arcenic and phorsperous which causes cancer, liver damage. That is why we are appealing to the conscience of our people to stop the use of these harmful substances under any circumstances.”
“Those using these substances are committing murder and creating all sorts of complicated problems for our people because when they take in these things, they become sick and some end up developing cancer which is very expensive to treat.
‘Foods that are ripened by calcium carbide have a lot of features like dusty particles in it as if they buried them inside ashes, secondly such foods, the outside will be yellowish while the main part of it will remain unripe like banana, you will not be able to remove the peel completely, you will remove the peel and part of it will remain sticky on the main banana meaning it has been ripened by calcium carbide.
“If it is mango you will see some black patches and it will look as if they poured hot water on it and that is how to notice that the fruit has been ripened by calcium carbide”, he said.
On his submission, Francis Ononiwu, the Director, Investigation and Enforcement who was represented by his Deputy Dr. Christiana Ezenwa enumerated the effects of drug hawking in a paper titled “The Menace Of Drug Hawking in Nigeria.”
He declared that street vending of drugs is a disturbing menace in Nigeria given the posture of the drug hawkers who erroneously claims to know everything.
He maintained that “The uncanny business has led many consumers who patronize street drug vendors to early graves describing the drug vendors as merchants of death.
“Majority of drugs they hawk are prescription drugs which usually requires the advise and guidance of a specialist.
“Things being hawked are nothing but poison because when exposed to the elements of the weather, the efficacy of drugs is lost and the consumption inimical to human health.”
“38% of Nigerians are non- literates and majorly form the ignorant class of people who patronize drug hawkers”, he said.