Keynote Address by Prof. Moji Christianah Adeyeye at the Flag-Off of the NAFDAC Media Sensitization Workshop on Dangers of Drug Hawking and Ripening of Fruits With Calcium Carbide in Abuja on Tuesday 11 July 2023
July 11, 2023,
Keynote Speech By Prof. Adeyeye C. M
Director General NAFDAC
NAFDAC Media Sensitization Workshop on
Dangers of Drugs Hawking and Ripening of
Fruits With Calcium Carbide
Merit House, Abuja
11th July, 2023.
It is my pleasure to be here today to Flag off the NAFDAC Media Sensitization Workshop on Dangers of Drug Hawking and Ripening of Fruits with Calcium Carbide.
There have 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, several national dailies and non-governmental organizations have raised concerns on the looming danger and health implication of these two nefarious activities by certain unpatriotic and unscrupulous citizens in our country.
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 fulfilment 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 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.
You will recall that NAFDAC recently organised similar sensitization workshops in eight cities across the country to raise awareness on the dangers of using bleaching creams. This was in line with my resolve to intensify and widen the scope of our publicity and public awareness campaigns as part of the transformative programmes of my second tenure of office.
I wish to assure you that NAFDAC will constantly engage the mass media as we strive to bring down to the grassroot level positive impacts of our regulatory activities.
The National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC) has noticed the dangerous practice of sale and consumption of fruits artificially ripened with calcium carbide as well as illegal hawking of drugs in the open market.
COMBATING DRUG HAWKING IN NIGERIA
The menace of drug hawking poses serious challenge to Healthcare Delivery System in the country and this underscored NAFDAC’s resolute determination to totally eradicate the illicit trade.
Many Drug Hawkers are 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.
Most of the drugs sold by the illiterate and semi-literate Drug Hawkers are counterfeit, substandard or expired, and therefore do not meet the quality, safety and efficacy requirement of regulated medicines.
Prescription drugs are also sold by the itinerant Drug Hawkers who also hold consultation, recommend and prescribe medicines to their gullible “patients”.
Drug Hawkers are also the major Distributors and Suppliers of narcotic medicines to criminal networks such as Armed Bandits, Insurgents, Kidnappers and Armed Robbers. Drug Hawkers constitute 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 nation-wide operation. No offender will be spared from facing the full wrath of the Law. In this regard, we solicit the co-operation and support of all other Law Enforcement Agencies, Nigerian Journalists and well-meaning Nigerians in riding the country of this harmful and shameful practice.
DANGERS OF RIPENING OF FRUITS WITH CALCIUM CARBIDES
The ripening of fruits with carbides is another public challenge facing us today and the Agency has deployed a multifaceted approach to tackle the menace.
Fruits provide the body with micronutrients that improve immunity and prevent diseases among other benefits. Fruit ripening is a unique aspect of plant development, which makes the fruit edible, softer, sweeter, more palatable, nutritious, and attractive.
However, the consumption of fruits such as mango, banana, plantain, guava, orange, grape, etc or any other fruits ripened with calcium carbide is dangerous to health.
Fruits artificially ripened with calcium carbide may be ripe on the skin, the inside remain 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.
Effect of artificial ripening on fruit quality include but not limited to:
- Considerable loss of properties such as colour, taste and feel, and such practice does not give the natural aroma and flavour to the fruits.
These fruits do not possess uniform colour and are less juicy than when ripened naturally and have comparatively shorter shelf life.
- Calcium Carbide when sprayed with water reacts chemically to produce acetylene, which acts like ethylene and ripens fruits by a similar process. Calcium carbide generally contains 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 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.
- Calcium Carbide is alkaline in nature and erodes the mucosal tissue in the abdominal region and disrupts intestinal functions.
- 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.
It is gratifying to announce that apart from sensitization campaigns and Enforcement activities, NAFDAC has 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.
I thank you for your collaboration and support for NAFDAC to rid the country of the menace of substandard and falsified medicines, unwholesome foods, corrosive cosmetics, and other substandard regulated products.
God bless you.