The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has said that it would henceforth prosecute all arrested Drug hawkers and Fruit vendors who ripen fruits with Calcium Carbide.
Director-General of NAFDAC, Prof. Mojisola Adeyeye disclosed this on Tuesday, July 11, 2023, at the Flag-off of the NAFDAC Media Sensitisation Workshop on Dangers of Drug Hawking and Ripening of Fruits with Calcium Carbide held in Abuja.
Adeyeye informed that there had been clarion calls by well-meaning Nigerians on the need to take stringent regulatory actions to stem the dangerous tide of Drug Hawking and Ripening of Fruits with Calcium Carbide.
In addition, she said several national dailies and non-governmental organisations had raised concerns on the looming danger and health implications of these two nefarious activities by certain unpatriotic and unscrupulous citizens in our country.
In response, “since 2019, we immediately took some decisive steps such as sensitization of the public through different media outlets, enforcement through intelligence, and raids in fruit markets that have resulted in seizures and destruction of violative products.
“The flag–off for this sensitization workshop today is again a fulfillment of my promise to sustain and strengthen NAFDAC’s existing collaboration with Association of Health Journalists in Nigeria towards mobilizing, educating, sensitizing, and conscientizing Nigerian Journalists to play a frontline role in our concerted efforts to eradicate the menace of Drug Hawking and Ripening of Fruits with Calcium Carbide in Nigeria.
“It is my candid opinion that sensitization workshop of this nature is a training the Trainers’ programme with the great expectation that participants will assume the role of champions in the vanguard of the campaign against drug hawking and the use of calcium carbide to ripen fruits”, the NAFDAC DG said.
On the dangers posed by hawked drugs, Prof. Adeyeye stated that, the menace of drug hawking poses a serious challenge to Healthcare Delivery System in the country and this underscored NAFDAC’s resolute determination to totally eradicate the illicit trade.
She added that, many Drug Hawkers were knowingly or unknowingly merchants of Death who expose essential and Life Saving Medicines to the vagaries of inclement weather which degrade the active ingredients of the medicine and turn them to poisons thus endangering human lives.
She further explained that, most of the drugs sold by the illiterate and semi-literate Drug Hawkers were counterfeit, substandard, or expired, and therefore do not meet the quality, safety, and efficacy requirements of regulated medicines.
According to the NAFDAC Boss, “Drug Hawkers were also the major Distributors and Suppliers of narcotic medicines to criminal networks such as Armed Bandits, Insurgents, Kidnappers, and Armed Robbers. Drug Hawkers constitute a serious threat to our national security.
“Drugs are sensitive life-saving commodities which should not be sold on the streets/motor parks or open markets just like any other article of trade. I wish to warn that any Drug Hawker arrested by NAFDAC will be prosecuted, will face a jail term, and our Enforcement Officers are currently carrying out synchronized nationwide operations. No offender will be spared from facing the full wrath of the Law”.
On the dangers of ripening fruits with Calcium Carbides, Prof. Adeyeye listed the effect of artificial ripening on fruit quality to include, a considerable loss of properties such as colour, taste, and feel, and also the loss of natural aroma and flavour of the fruits.
She explained that, Calcium Carbide generally contained impurities such as arsenic, lead particles, phosphorus, etc., that pose several very serious health hazards.
“Consumption of fruits containing these impurities may cause cancer, heart, kidney, and liver failure. They may also cause frequent thirst, irritation in the mouth and nose, weakness, permanent skin damage, difficulty in swallowing, vomiting, skin ulcer, and so forth.
“Higher exposure may cause undesired fluid build-up in lungs (pulmonary oedema). Acetylene produced by Calcium Carbide affects the neurological system and reduces oxygen supply to the brain and further induces prolonged hypoxia.
“The impurities are hazardous to pregnant women and children and may lead to headache, dizziness, mood disturbances, mental confusion, memory loss, cerebral oedema (swelling in the brain caused by excessive fluids), sleepiness, seizure, etc.
“Consuming such artificially ripened fruits could result in sleeping disorders, mouth ulcers, skin rashes, kidney problems, and possibly even cancer.
“Other symptoms of poisoning include diarrhoea (with or without blood), burning or tingling sensation in abdomen and chest difficulty in swallowing, irritation in eyes/skin, sore throat, cough, shortness in breathing, numbness, etc.”, She said.
Furthermore, the NAFDAC Boss disclosed that, apart from sensitisation campaigns and Enforcement activities, NAFDAC had commissioned a scientific study on the best approach towards mitigating the health hazards posed by ripening of fruits with carbides.
“I have mandated some of my directors and support staff to take these campaigns to the nooks and crannies of this country. We are confident of winning the war against these two hydra-headed public health menaces.
“It is, therefore, a great pleasure for me to declare open this Media Sensitization Workshop while urging you to assist NAFDAC in publicizing and disseminating knowledge acquired to the general public”, she said.