Some Nigerians have called on Federal Ministry of Health, NAFDAC and other relevant agencies to raid markets in and around the FCT to confiscate fruits which were artificially ripened with chemicals.
The concerned citizens made the call in separate interviews with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Thursday in Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), and Nasarawa State.
A visit to Zuba, Deidei and Garki markets in Abuja and Fruits Market, popularly known as orange market, in Mararaba, Nasarawa State, revealed that the markets were full of varieties of fruits which were artificially ripened.
Investigations by NAN at the markets revealed that some unscrupulous traders were fond of applying various chemicals, including Calcium Carbide (CaC2) and formalin, to force-ripe fruits before selling them to unsuspecting consumers
NAN also observed that some fruits sellers in the markets used detergents to wash their fruits.
Some of those interviewed underscored the need for the government to stop foot-dragging over the issue and direct its agencies to undertake unscheduled visits to the markets to check the nefarious activities of traders who engaged in the practice.
Mr Adetokunbo Balogun, a consumer, lamented that even though the use of calcium carbide to force-ripe fruits was outlawed in the country, the practice was still common in most markets.
He attributed the development to the lack of sustained sensitisation on the health hazards of the practice and the non-enforcement of the extant laws prohibiting it by the relevant agencies.
Balogun stressed the need for the government to sensitise the citizens to the dangers of consuming artificially-ripened fruits, while stern action should be particularly taken against those dealing in carbide ripened fruits.
Mr Abdallah Nur, a university lecturer, said that it was high time the relevant government agencies raided markets, adding that they should also conduct public sensitisation campaigns on the dangers of using chemicals to force-ripe fruits.
He reiterated the need for the government to enforce total compliance with the laws outlawing sales of carbide-ripened fruits in the markets because of the health implications, as there was no antidote available for calcium carbide poisoning.
Nur, nonetheless, urged consumers to wash their fruits well enough before consumption, adding that if such fruits were mistakenly ingested, the consumers should drink a lot of water to dilute the irritant effects of the chemical poisoning or be subjected to induced vomiting.
“We need to do something fast and stop toying with the future of this country. Calcium carbide is a chemical compound that is industrially used in the production of calcium cyanamide for fertiliser and also in welding iron.
“The chemical is very dangerous and its consumption is deadly because it contains traces of arsenic and phosphorus, which both have dangerous effects on human body and could lead to organophosphate poisoning,’’ he said.
“Organophosphates are used as insecticides, medications and nerve agents; the symptoms of organophosphate poisoning include increased saliva and tear production, diarrhoea, vomiting, sweating, muscle tremors and confusion.
“I can confirm to you that death is being sold at various markets in Abuja and Nasarawa State under the guise of selling fruits; calcium carbide is a material most commonly used for welding purposes but it has now turned onto a fruit-ripening catalyst.
“I once had a similar experience when I was suffered from confusion, blisters, hitching on my palms and stomach upset. Since then, I stopped buying plantain and pawpaw from the market,’’ he said.
Amina Ibrahim, a fruit seller who once patronised the Orange Market for bulk fruit purchases, said she had since changed her line of business.
She said that during her four-year stint in the fruits selling business, she constantly manifested certain symptoms such as vomiting and diarrhoea as well as eyes, skin, mouth, nose and throat irritation; not knowing that they were symptoms of carbide poisoning.
She recalled when she became pregnant she was always having constant memory loss, seizures and allergic reactions.
Ibrahim said that after undergoing series of laboratory tests and investigations, it was discovered that the reactions were as a result of her constant contact with some chemicals used to force-ripe fruits.
She said that most of the fruits were stored in unoccupied stalls in the market, where the traders usually treated the fruits with chemicals to induce their ripening process.
Investigations by NAN revealed that the traders in the markets often procured fresh fruits from different places across the country, only to stockpile them and induce their ripening process with chemicals such as calcium carbide.