Home News Why Nigerians must reject artificial ripening of fruits – Experts

Why Nigerians must reject artificial ripening of fruits – Experts


Ibadan   –      Medical experts have raised concerns about the increasing recourse to artificial ripening of fruits by using chemical substances, saying this is detrimental to the health of people.
The experts, who spoke to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in separate interviews across some South West states and Kwara, called for concerted efforts to tackle the scourge.

A medical doctor, Dr Kunle Ashimi, said the Federal Government must put in place measures to particularly check the use of chemical substances for ripening fruits.
He told NAN in Abeokuta that such chemicals contain carcinogenic agents which cause cancer.
Ashimi described normal ripening of fruits as a natural process which makes the fruits edible, palatable and nutritious.
He noted that artificial ripening destroys the natural content of fruits.
“Naturally, fruits ripen after attainment of proper maturity by a sequence of physical and biochemical events and the process is irreversible, ultimately leading to senescence.

“Whether fruits ripen on the plant or after harvest, the general ripening changes associated with the ripening process are easily recognisable.

“During natural process of ripening, fruits soften, change colour and develop characteristic aroma and flavour.

“There is also a reduction in sourness (acids) and increase in the sweetness,” he said.

According to him, some of the fruits that sellers subject to artificial ripening include plantain, banana and mango.

The practice, he said, was often motivated by the desire to achieve higher volume of sales while ignoring the harmful health implications.

He warned that consumption of artificially ripened fruits could result in sleeping disorder, headache, memory loss, seizure, mouth ulcer, skin rashes, renal problems and even cancer.

“Calcium carbide is a major chemical used for artificial ripening of fruits and it is an industrial grade product which contains arsenic and lead participles.
“These toxic impurities affect the neurological system and reduce the oxygen supply to the brain,” he added.
Dr Mibaudeen Lawal, the Coordinator of Health and Environmental Basic Registry and Information System in Nigeria (BRISIN), also corroborated Ashimi’s position, warning of the risk of kidney diseases.
Lawal told NAN in Ilorin that other health challenges include gastrointestinal irritation, nausea, cardiac disturbance and depression.

He lamented that fruit sellers use calcium carbide, an industrial grade product, to ripen fruits quickly.
The doctor explained that calcium carbide contains traces of arsenic, lead particles and phosphorus hydride as impurities.
“These impurities may cause serious health hazards when workers come in direct contact with them while applying the ripening agents,’’ he said.
According to him, the acetylene released by calcium carbide has been found to affect the neurological system and reduces oxygen supply to the brain while inducing prolonged hypoxia.
He warned that pregnant women as well as children run the risks of having headache, dizziness, mood disturbances, mental confusion, memory loss, swelling in the brain caused by excessive fluids, sleepiness and seizure.
He added that some people may get stomach upset after eating carbide-ripened fruits.
The BRISN coordinator also urged the government and social health workers to sensitise fruit sellers and farmers on the dangers of artificially ripened fruits.
He also advised consumers to examine the fruits carefully in order to select the right fruit by observing the variation of colour.
“They should buy fruits only according to the season and wash the fruit thoroughly under running water before consumption,” he said.
A nutrionist, Miss Yinka Oroniran, identified bananas, oranges, pawpaw and mangoes as the most common fruits often ripened artificially.
She told NAN in Ibadan that although artificial ripening of fruits in dark places and air tight containers was an age long practice, some traders resort to the unhealthy practice of using chemicals for artificial ripening.
“Artificial ripening is done to achieve faster and more uniform ripening characteristics.

“Calcium carbide is the most commonly used chemical substance in fruit ripening.
“This chemical, although used in small amount for artificial ripening, contains carcinogens and are arsenic and phosphorus.
“This can severely damage the organ and also lead to health problems including vomiting, diarrhoea, headache and dizziness,” she said.
Oroniran also said that fruits ripened with calcium carbide are soft, taste differently or in some instances are even tasteless.
“Considering that artificial fruit ripening is common, it is important that fruits are thoroughly washed with salt water before consumption,’’ she said.
But in Osun, the state Commissioner for Health, Dr Rafiu Isamatu, said the state government was aware of the recourse to artificial ripening in the state and was sensitising residents on the health implications.
Isamatu warned that any fruit vendor caught in the act would be arrested and prosecuted.
The commissioner said health officers in the state had been moving around major markets in the state to check the activities of those who engage in such acts.
He called on stakeholders in the health sector to support the crusade against the use of chemicals for fruit ripening.

Similarly, a nutritionist, Mr Tosin Ojomu, urged the media do more in the campaign against artificial ripening of fruits, saying “many people do not know the effect of what is entering their body’’.

Ojomu told NAN in Akure that government must step up action against the trend due to the public health danger it poses.

Mr Olusola Adediji, the Chairman of the Joint Health Sector Union, Federal Medical Centre (FMC), Owo, also called on health authorities to move fast and tackle the scourge.

Adediji, a biomedical scientist in the Chemical Pathology Department of the centre, said use of chemicals in the fruit industry was being discouraged across the world.

“Use of calcium carbide in the fruit industry is being discouraged worldwide due to dangers of explosion as well as spreading of toxic substances such as arsenic and phosphorus to consumers.

“Since no any technical knowledge is considered necessary for its anomalous use, high quantity of calcium carbide is needed to ripen immature fruits and consequently making them tasteless,” he said.

Some fruit vendors, however, admitted selling artificially ripened fruits, but denied using chemicals in such quickening process.
Many of them blamed the trend on pressure by customers who often demand for ripe fruits at short notice.
One of the fruit vendors, Mrs Bunmi Olaleke, told NAN in Ado-Ekiti that any fruit harvested for sale could be preserved locally using thick but clean cloth as well as traditional cocoa bags or ashes.

In Ikere Ekiti, another vendor, Mrs Dayo Bamidele, argued that there was nothing wrong in ripening fruits, a practice which she said was common among farmers too before release to the markets.
She said the practice was common among farmers who grow plantain and banana in their urge to satisfy the high demand for the produce.
However, another fruit vendor in Ilorin, Mrs Joke Fajemisin, however, told NAN that she had never used artificial ripening in her trade.
Fajemisin said she was aware of the health implications of using carbide to ripen fruits before the due maturity day.
She said that her customers preferred to buy from her because of the trust they have that she would not use chemicals to induce ripening of fruits.
Fajemisin, however, agreed that some unscrupulous vendors use chemicals, particularly carbide to ripen fruits.
In Osogbo, many of the fruit vendors also denied the use of chemicals for ripening of fruits.
They told NAN in separate interviews that they buy their fruits ripe from distributors without knowledge as to whether chemicals were used to ripen the fruits.
Mrs Adedoyin Abioye, a fruit seller at Igbonna Market, said she had always warned her distributors against usage of chemicals for fruit ripening.
According to her, those who make use of chemicals do so secretly so as to avoid being caught.
A customer, Mrs Fadekemi Orilowo, admitted that she often purchases unripe fruits and carries out the ripening process in the comfort of her home.

But an Akure-based victim of artificially ripened fruits, who identified herself simply as Mrs Ope, said she and her three children vomited severally after eating African cherry bought at Shasha Market.

She said that the incident taught her a lesson to be cautious when buying fruits, urging that stiff punishment be put in place for those caught in the act.

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