- A survey has shown how some sellers fast track the ripening of fruits to make money
- It was gathered that the fruit sellers use calcium carbide - a chemical that is dangerous to human health
- The Bauchi state government said it would set up a committee that would check the practice
Most fruit farmers and traders in some states of northeast region apply artificial method of ripening their fruits to the detriment of health concerns.
A survey conducted by the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Bauchi, Gombe, Adamawa, Yobe and neighbouring Jigawa states confirmed frequent use of calcium carbide, a chemical that is dangerous to human health.
However, whereas authorities in some of the states said they were aware and were taking measures to check the unwholesome practice, others said they were unaware and would investigate.
In Bauchi, the state government said it would set up a committee that would check the practice.
Malam Yakubu Kirfi, the state commissioner for agriculture, told NAN that government viewed the practice seriously and was poised to take decisive measures.
“The committee will comprise relevant agencies such as SON, NAFDAC, ministries of health, agriculture and environment, security agencies and associations, among others, who are to ensure compliance," he said.
He said the attention of government had been drawn to the practice of using calcium carbide in ripening fruits meant for sale to the public, which is hazardous to health. He said that there must be a proper plan of action to check food adulteration and artificial ripening of fruits because of the long-time damage effects on human health.
Salisu Gado, a dietician in Bauchi and public health commentator, said most fruit sellers used chemicals like calcium carbide in ripening same.
According to him, the chemical is extremely hazardous to the human body as it contains traces of arsenic and phosphorus.
“We are at a greater risk of short-term, as well as long-term health hazards by eating fruits that are artificially ripened," he warned.
Rebecca Dogo, a restaurant owner in Bauchi, also said artificial ripening of fruits had become the vogue just to achieve faster and more uniform ripening of fruits at the expense of nutritional values. According to her, the difference between natural and artificial ripening of fruits, are very clear.
“In nature, fruits ripen after attainment of proper maturity by a sequence of complex physical and biochemical events. Natural ripening is therefore a physiological process which makes the fruit edible, palatable and nutritious.
“Artificial or forceful ripening of fruits, on the other hand, is the use of ripening agents to induce maturity by merely changing the colour of the fruits,” she analysed.
Dogo lamented that those doing the business hid it from the public and consumers as most people could not distinguish between the two processes.
“Even the vendors that sell in the streets do not know the difference as they just run errands for the dealers,” Dogo said.
Nasiru Muhammed, the chairman of Nigerian Fruit Sellers Association, Adamawa branch, confirmed that members of his association were using carbide chemical to ripen fruits, especially bananas.
He said that most of the banana been transported to the state, were unripe, and that due to high demand, sellers could not wait for the minimum of five days required for the fruit to ripe naturally.
“This practice has been in place for the past 30 years,” he revealed.
He said they were not aware of any health implication of their deeds, adding that no health or environmental workers ever visited or sensitised them about the dangers of using the chemical.
Isaac Kadala, a staff of public health department, Adamawa Ministry of Health, said they were aware of the practice but added that no formal complaints from consumers or any other quarters were lodged with them.
Muhammed Ibrahim, director, Waste Management and Pollution Control, state Ministry of Environment, said he was unaware of the development, promising to take measures.
“We are going to find out about the development and government will surely take decisive action,” he assured.
Bala Saidu, the Chief Medical Director, Yola Specialist Hospital, Jimeta, said the facility had not received any case of complication as a result of consumption of fruit ripened using carbide, but described the chemical as dangerous.
“Carbide is a binary compound of carbon with a more electro-positive element. lt is a dangerous chemical, especially if consumed directly as it can kill instantly,” he said.
Joseph Husaini, the acting director, Technical Services, Gombe State Agriculture Development Programme (GSADP), said the use of chemicals like carbide to ripen fruits artificially was not advisable because it had negative effects.
Hussaini urged fruits sellers to apply the traditional method of fruits ripening instead of applying chemicals. He said the traditional method of fruits ripening implies covering the fruits with polyethylene bag for at least one week to enable them mature gradually.
“You do not need to apply any harmful substance capable of causing damage to human system; the fruits themselves can ripe when they attain maturity period,’’ he said.
Kennedy Ishaya, the Gombe state commissioner for health, said the ministry had established a directorate saddled with the responsibility of finding out the type of preservative used in ripening fruits.
He said artificial ripening of fruits with carbide had a damaging effect on human eyes, as well as respiratory system.
The coordinator of National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) in Jigawa, Abdulsalam Lawal, said the use of calcium carbide for ripening of fruits could cause mental confusion, loss of memory, dizziness, cancer, vomiting and sleepiness, among others.
He advised members of the general public to be mindful of the type of fruits they buy from fruit sellers in the market.
In Yobe, however, fruit sellers said the practice of artificial ripening of fruits especially through the use of harmful chemical was not common.
Ali Mai-Gwari, chairman Fruits Sellers, Family Support Hospital branch, Damaturu, said they had been monitoring themselves to ensure that none of the members indulged in the practice.
“We learnt that some fruits dealers outside the state capital use some substance to hasten the ripening of the fruits, but not inside Damaturu,” he said.
Danchuwa Alhaji, the deputy director public health, Yobe Ministry of Health, said the ministry had not received any complaint on the use of chemicals or other substances to ripen fruits. He pleaded with the public to assist the ministry with useful information to apprehend any one or group indulging in such or other acts that had grave health implications to the public.
Meanwhile, NAIJ.com previously made a list of some Nigerian fruits and their English names.
It was gathered that some local used traditional names for these fruits and even invent new designations out of it.
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