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Health risks of using ripening agents in fruits


Fruits and vegetables. Photo/ Betterhealthchannel

Regular consumers of plantain, banana, mango and other types of fruits, especially those bought in markets, risk contracting life-threatening diseases.

The health threats have been linked to application of agents to forcefully or prematurely ripen these fruits and make them ready. The most commonly used ripening agent is Calcium carbide. It is capable of quickly ripening fruits evenly and very quietly.

Carbide is an extremely harmful substance to the human body, as it contains traces of arsenic and phosphorus, considered as cancer-causing elements.


The Guardian investigations revealed that these harmful fruits are openly sold at the popular Ise Ogede market in Ketu area of Lagos, to unsuspecting buyers.

Though the traders were not willing to speak, but one of them Mary Odah, an indigene of Benue State, disclosed that majority of plantain traders in the state use carbide.

Other markets visited by The Guardian include Idi-Oro, Ojota and the popular Ile-Epo markets, which are like depots for fruit marketers.

Aside fruits, beans is said to have become unsafe for human consumption, as it is exposed to overdose of Aluminum phosphide (AlP), one of the most common causes of food poisoning, which is used to control weevil.

Health experts claim insecticide (AIP) in beans, is the most dangerous form of food poisoning in the country. The chemical is said to liberate lethal phosphine gas when it comes in contact either with atmospheric moisture or with hydrochloric acid in the stomach. 

It has also been gathered that some Nigerian farmers use a chemical called “Sniper” for pest control.

Sniper is a potent chemical. It is a 2, 2-Dichlorovinyl-dimethyl phosphate compound.

It is widely used as an insecticide to control household pests, and for public health. It is an organophosphate that readily binds to the lungs and kidney causing cancer.


This has been blamed for the persistent rejection of a number of Nigerian agricultural exports in global commodities markets.

Some of the country’s agro produce have been rejected after failing the international standard requirements, especially of health related conditions set by importing countries.

Recall that ban was placed by the European Union (EU) on beans from Nigeria.

This followed the rejection of 67 processed and semi-processed food products, including brown and white beans, melon seeds, palm oil, mushrooms, bitter leaf, pumpkin leaves, shelled groundnut, smoked catfish, and crayfish, in 2016 and 2017.

A food technologist at the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO), confirmed the unwholesome practice of farmers and traders applying chemicals on crops.

He noted that most of the chemicals are responsible for increase in certain diseases in the country.


“The problem is that innocent Nigerians are unaware of these practices. It is high time we increased campaigns to stop this act forthwith. Farmers need to be sensitised regularly on the usage of chemicals. Another thing is imported fruits like apples, our government needs to check all these things and see if they are safe for consumption.”

An horticulturist, Mr. Akin Sawyerr, who is the Executive Secretary of the Agricultural Fresh Produce Growers and Exporters Association of Nigeria (AFGEAN), said the consumption of such artificially ripened fruits could cause mouth ulcer, gastric problems, diarrhea and skin rashes. “Needless to say that calcium carbide is extremely dangerous to human health and totally against the principles of food safety.”

He added that sniper liquid is used for insecticide, helminthiasis and other conditions, which are seriously harmful to human health.

“It is clearly stated that it is for outdoor usage on farms to drive away or kill insects that attack their crops. However, it has been observed that many people are ignorant of the health dangers, as they would rather sprinkle sniper inside their homes because it is supposed to be more effective and affordable.

“Possible side effects that may occur from all constituting ingredients of sniper include; headache, chest tightness, wheezing, laryngeal spasm, salivation, pain, redness of eye, anorexia and nausea.”

He advised lovers of plantain and to always buy unripe ones and keep them inside black plastic for few days, and allow it to ripe naturally.

“This is why the European Union, United States don’t want to have the Beans, Cocoa, Plantain and Pineapples from Nigeria,” he said.

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