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Sun, May

NAFDAC Decries Growing Menace Of Drug Hawking

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The National Administration of Food and drug Control (NAFDAC) has decried the growing menace of drug hawking which poses serious challenge to the healthcare delivery system in the country and stating that the development underscores the agencies unwavering determination to totally eradicate the illicit trade.  The observation was contained in a keynote address of the Director-General of NAFDAC, Prof. Moji Christianah Adeyeye delivered at the North-East Zonal NAFDAC media sensitisation workshop on ‘Dangers of Drug hawking and Ripening of Fruits with Calcium Carbide’ held at the Conference Hall of Federal Secretariat, Bauchi on Monday.

According to her, “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.”

She added that prescription drugs are also sold by itinerant drug hawkers who also hold consultations and recommend and prescribe medicines to their gullible ‘patients’.

Adeyeye further said that training,”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 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 you that any drug hawker arrested by NAFDAC will be prosecuted, will face a jail term, and our Enforcement Officers are currently carrying out synchronised nationwide operation.

“No offender will be spared from facing the full wrath of the law. In this regard, we solicit the cooperation and support of all other law enforcement agencies, Journalists, and well-meaning Nigerians in riding the country of this harmful and shameful practice.”

On the dangers of ripening fruits with calcium carbides, she lamented that it is another public challenge facing us today and the Agency has deployed a multifaceted approach to tackle the menace.

According to her, “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, but 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 bananas and plantains. In addition, naturally ripened fruits usually have brown or black spots, while those artificially ripened have traces of powdery substances and peel off quickly.”

Adeyeye said that the effects of artificial ripening on fruit quality include but are 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 while 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 just as 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 the 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 diarrhea (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.

She pointed out that 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 about the looming danger and health implications 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,” She added.

According to her, “The flag-off for this sensitization workshop today is again a fulfillment of my promise to sustain and strengthen NAFDAC’s existing collaboration with the Association of Health Journalists in Nigeria towards mobilizing, educating, sensitising, and concertizing 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.