The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has expressed worry over menace of drug hawking and artificial ripening of fruits with calcium carbides across the country.
It described drug hawkers as merchants of deaths, stressing that their activities are not only illegal but wicked.
Delivering a lecture on Tuesday in Awka, Anambra State on “Menace of Drug Hawking in Nigeria” during South-East Zone Media Sensitization Workshop on Danger of Drug Hawking And Ripening of Fruits With Calcium Carbide, Director, Investigation and Enforcement, Mr. Francis Ononiwu, called for collaboration of stakeholders to fight the menace.
Ononiwu, represented by Dr Christiana Ezenwah regretted that available data showed that 38 percent, representing over 76million non-literace adults in Nigeria fall prey to the hawkers who sadly constitute major dealers of such life-threatening drugs.
He identified easy accessibility, affordability, illiteracy among others as factors contributing to drug hawking, saying investigation and enforcement activities, regular mopping actions and other measures remained some regulatory steps the agency undertake to control the scourge.
“These drug hawkers are mobile hospitals with doctors, nurses and medical personnel. Unfortunately, there’s no records of how the drugs they deal on find their way into the country. This remains a challenge for all of us,” he said.
Earlier in her address, Director-General of the agency, Mojisola Adeyeye said consumption of fruits ripened with calcium carbide may cause cancer, heart failure, kidney failure, and liver failure.
The DG, represented by Director, Chemical Evaluation & Research, Dr Leonard Omokparariola said calcium carbide generally contained impurities such as arsenic, lead particles, phosphorus, and others that pose several serious health hazards.
She further noted that fruits ripened with calcium carbide could cause frequent thirst, irritation in mouth and nose, weakness, permanent skin damage, difficulty in swallowing, vomiting, and skin ulcer.
She said although fruits provide the body with micronutrients that improve immunity and prevent diseases among other benefits, consumptions of fruits ripened with calcium carbide would be dangerous to one’s health.
She said, “Fruits artificially ripened with calcium carbide may be ripe on the skin, the inside remains unripe.
“You can identify such artificially ripened fruits if you notice that the fruits are all yellow whereas the stem is dark, this is true especially with banana and plantain. In addition, naturally ripened fruits usually have brown or black spots, while those artificially ripened have traces of powdery substances and peel off quickly.”
According to DG, artificial ripening of fruits quality would lead to the considerable loss of properties such as colour, taste and feel, and such practice does not give the natural aroma and flavour to the fruits, adding,”These fruits do not possess uniform colour and are less juicy than when ripened naturally and have comparatively shorter shelf life.”
She further explained that acetylene produced by calcium carbide would affect the neurological system and reduce oxygen supply to the brain and further induces prolonged hypoxia.
She said these chemicals were hazardous to pregnant women and children and might lead to headaches, dizziness, mood disturbances, mental confusion, memory loss, swelling in the brain caused by excessive fluids, sleepiness, seizure, and others.
Adeyeye however announced that the agency had commissioned a scientific study on the best approach towards mitigating the health hazards posed by ripening of fruits with carbides.
Director of Public Affairs of the agency, Dr Abubakaer Jimoh, while delivering a paper on “Influence of Mass Media Campaign on Health Behavioral Change”, described the media as critical stakeholders of NAFDAC, calling for increased collaboration with the agency in public enlightenment campaign on fight against counterfeit drugs.
Other papers presented at the workshop were, “Danger of Artificial Ripening fruits with calcium carbide wherein he educated the participants on natural methods of ripening fruits” by Omokparariola and”Good Distribution Practices and Surveillance Activities Towards Prevention and Curbing of Substandard and Falsified Medicines in Nigeria” by Deputy Director incharge Post Marketing Surveillance, Pharm. Bitrus Fraden.
Highlight of the workshop, organised for Association of Nigeria Health Journalists, which had representatives of Anambra State Government, National Youth service Corps (NYSC), National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) and other security outfits, was one minute silence for former NAFDAC DG, late Prof Dora Akunyili for her exploits during her regime.