A recent investigation carried out on the health hazards associated with the consumption of artificially ripened fruits should achieve two purposes: a wake-up call on the relevant government agencies to stem the deadly practice and a warning to Nigerians to be wary of the killer commodities.
According to the findings, fruits such as banana, mango, plantain, pawpaw and oranges are dragged under a dangerous chemical known as calcium carbide to fast-track the ripening process, consequently exposing consumers to the high risk of developing life-threatening ailments such as cancer, kidney malfunction, liver cirrhosis and heart failure.
Responses from different parts of the country were in unison regarding the harmful methods employed to achieve premature ripening in order to meet the high demands for the commodities.
Bananas and plantains are delicacies among many Nigerians. There is hardly any spot you turn to where the fruits are not available for sale. Other fruits like oranges, pawpaw and mangoes, though seasonal, also form parts of the daily consumption of Nigerians irrespective of their social status.
Health experts and nutritionists are quick to harp on the benefits of these commodities. They are veritable sources of multivitamins and minerals required to guarantee healthy living and even combat diseases such as cancer. It is an irony that cancerous diseases are invited into the body and nurtured through consumption of these same fruits ripened by dangerous means.
It seems Nigerian fruit lovers are torn between two evils: eating fresh fruits that are carcinogenic and patronising the ones processed and packaged in packs and cans, laced with preservatives that are also carcinogenic.
Will Nigerians stop eating fruits because of the inherent hazards associated with the method of ripening by the marketers? This is not feasible. However, they need to be well enlightened about the danger of digging their graves with their own teeth through the consumption of artificially ripened fruits. Most consumers of the commodities cannot differentiate naturally ripened fruits from the ones forced to maturity through immersion in carbide.
Some signs of artificially ripened fruits like mangoes, pawpaw, plantain and bananas are uneven ripening colours, and unusually smooth peels in the case of bananas. Naturally ripened fruits also wear some brownish dark spots as their trademarks. These are some of the indicators consumers should be on the lookout for.
Going by the rampancy of the deadly practice by fruit marketers across the country, it is a miracle that Nigerian consumers are not dying daily in their thousands. However, the prevalence of terminal diseases targeting vital organs like the kidneys, hearts and livers are end results of the presence of the harmful chemical in their system.
It will, therefore, not be out of place to come down hard on the merchants of death wherever they display their deadly wares. Criminalisation of the harmful practice will also not be out of place. The relevant agency like the National Foods and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) should send its operatives to depots, markets and other outlets where these commodities are sold to assess the state of the fruits. Where they are found to be contaminated, they should receive the same treatment given to adulterated drugs by confiscating and destroying them, while the marketers should be sanctioned.
The average Nigerian fruit seller will do just anything to market his or her products even at the expense of innocent consumers. They fall within the category of merchants of fake drugs who will make sure that such killer medications are not consumed by their relations.
The need for an aggressive awareness campaign will be very necessary in order to save Nigerians from these death merchants on the prowl all over the country. Nigerians should live because of what they eat and not be killed by what they consider a necessity for healthy living.