Following an investigation carried out by a national daily on the health hazards associated with the eating of artificially ripened fruits not too long ago, the federal government through its appropriate agency, the National Food and Drugs Administration and Control (NAFDAC), swiftly reacted by warning unscrupulous fruit sellers against the dangerous practice. Indeed, the investigation was intended to 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 bananas, mangoes, plantains, 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.
However, despite the alarm raised and the note of warning sounded, the merchants of death, masquerading as fruit sellers, are still feeding their unsuspecting patrons with their deadly commodities which they are aware are harmful for human consumption.
Findings from different parts of the country are in unison regarding the injurious methods employed to achieve premature ripening in order to meet the high demands for the commodities, while the marketers smile to the bank at the expense of consumers.
Bananas and plantains are popular 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 owing to their health benefits.
Health experts and nutritionists are quick to harp on the immense benefits of these commodities. They are veritable sources of multivitamins and minerals required to guarantee healthy living and even combat deadly 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. Those who consume artificially ripened fruits with the sole aim of achieving healthy living must be worried by the dilemma they have found themselves in.
Indeed, the Nigerian fruit lover is 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 enlightened on regular basis 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, plantains 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 in their thousands. However, the prevalence of terminal diseases targeting vital organs of the body are end results of the presence of the harmful chemical in their system ingested through dangerous fruits.
It is high time the government came down hard on these vendors of death wherever they display their deadly wares. Criminalisation of the harmful practice will also not be out of place. Operatives of the NAFDAC should sustain their checks on 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 heavily sanctioned.
An aggressive awareness campaign should also be intensified by the NAFDAC and other public enlightenment organs of government at all levels in order to save Nigerians from the death merchants. We are of the view that Nigerians should live because of what they eat and not be killed by what they consider a necessity for healthy living.