By Ray Morphy!
We are told that an apple a day keeps the doctor away. That is how important fruits are to our health and wellbeing.
The medical experts say that eating fruits is an excellent way to improve our overall health as well as reduce risk of disease. We Nigerians eat a lot of fruits, whether for the sweetness of them or for health purposes. Medical experts say that eating fruits is the way to go.
Fruits are an excellent source of essential vitamins and minerals, they are high in fiber. Fruits also provide a wide range of health-boosting antioxidants, including flavonoids. Eating a diet high in fruits can reduce a person’s risk of developing heart disease, cancer, inflammation, and diabetes. Some of the commonest fruits that we eat in Nigeria include banana, orange, apple, lemon, lime, avocado, mangoes, strawberry, blueberries, pineapple, pomegranate, watermelon, blackberries, grape fruits, and lemons among others.
Fruits come in all shapes and sizes, and different fruits have different health benefits the doctors have told us. According to the doctors by eating fruit, a person is providing the body with key vitamins, antioxidants, and dietary fiber. This can have significant
benefits for heart health, digestion, weight management, and skin health. People can enjoy a wide variety of fruits to improve their health and lower the risk of inflammation, heart disease, cancer, obesity, and diabetes. Some of these fruits are imported into the
country, while some are cultivated at home.
As good as these fruits are for our health, many have raised concern over the manner in which they are preserved before they are imported into the country or how the ones grown at home are ripened. Health authorities are alarmed because these unwholesome preservation methods have long term implications on our health. It is therefore something to worry about when harmful chemicals are used to preserve the fruits or hasten their ripening!
Recently I carried out a simple experiment by using apple I bought from the open market. This apple has been in my possession since 1st October 2020. I bought it from a local fruit stand and I never put it in a fridge. And as at yesterday, Monday, 11th January 2021, one full hundred days later, this apple is still looking the same. It has not rotten or decayed and has suffered no change in colour or in texture .It is unbelievable!
Natural fruits will not exceed 7 days without refrigeration. They will start rotting and or fermenting. Now, the question is: why are the imported apples sold on the streets so long lasting? Are they Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)? Are they safe? Are they
synthetic? Are they manufactured rather than the product of trees? Who checks on these things to avoid danger to citizens?
My checks show that the responsibilities for regulating and monitoring food safety standards and practices in Nigeria devolve on the following government organizations and agencies: Federal Ministry of Health (FMoH), Federal Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (FMARD) and Federal Ministry of Industries, Trade and Investments (MITI); Federal Department of Fisheries and Federal Department of Livestock; National Agency for Food and Drug Administration and Control (NAFDAC), Standards Organization of Nigeria(SON), Nigeria Agricultural Plant Quarantine Services (NAQS) and Federal Competition and Consumer
Protection Commission (FCCPC). I hope that they are up to the task as the results out here are not encouraging.
I found the apple and other imported apples to be suspect. You can repeat this experiment yourself and you will be amazed at how long it will stay seemingly fresh. This takes me to the forced ripening of fruits by fruit dealers. In a quest to force ripen fruits for monetary gains, fruits dealers use calcium carbide to artificially ripen the fruits. When calcium carbide comes in contact with moisture, it produces acetylene gas, which is similar in its effects to the natural ripening agent, ethylene. Acetylene accelerates the ripening process. Calcium carbide causes various health hazards should such as headache, dizziness, mood disturbances, sleepiness, mental confusion, memory loss, cerebral edema and seizures.
Most artificial ripening agents are toxic and their consumption can cause serious health problems, such as heart disease, skin disease, lung failure and kidney failure. Scientists have also reported that regular consumption of artificial-ripened fruits may cause dizziness,
general body weakness, skin ulcer and heart related diseases.
Similarly the grains that we eat including beans are preserved in questionable circumstances. Some farmers preserve beans with sniper.
Sniper is highly toxic and used mainly as fumigants for outdoor purposes. However, because it is readily available and affordable, Sniper has become the most widely abused pesticide. It is used by both farmers and traders at pre-and post-harvest storage including open
markets to control insect infestation in foods especially beans, oil seeds and similar grains.
Regulators need to do more to address these problems occasioned by the preservation of food. There is urgent need for self-regulation to achieve the desired objective of provision of safe food to consumers.
This can only be achieved when there is awareness through dissemination of information on the correct usage of chemicals and stricter management and control of the importation, storage, distribution, transportation and application of chemicals like Sniper.
Traceability of sold produce should be encouraged through firm implementation of certified commodity warehousing schemes by NAFDAC working with the Federal Ministry of Agriculture.
Consequences of consuming foods preserved with Sniper and other harmful chemicals include gastro- intestinal health issues, brain and other internal tissue damage, blood poisoning, food poisoning and could also lead to fatality – death.
Government should create an enabling environment for professionalism in the agricultural value chain through the recognition and empowerment of trained food professionals to regulate the practice of the food profession in Nigeria. This involves the certification and
expert training of all persons who desire and are willing to produce food for public consumption.
Government can also support this drive by ensuring that only trained and certified food professionals occupy the post of food scientific officers in all local government areas in Nigeria. This will ensure sufficient knowledge dissemination and management of safe
food cultivation, harvesting, storage, distribution, transportation and sales.
The CBN/Federal Ministry of Agriculture Wallet programmes, through which fertilizer are delivered to registered farmers, can also be deployed in the awareness training and information dissemination to the agricultural value chain operators on the safe use of chemicals.
Government should also urgently establish commodity marketing boards to set up centralised mega- storage warehouses in the six geo-political zones of Nigeria. The boards will bulk-buy all harvested produce, warehouse efficiently and sell to retailers. With this, there
will be informed usage of chemicals and traceability of foodstuff will be assured.
There should be improvement in the policy regulating the import, storage, warehousing, distribution and sale of chemicals in Nigeria. NAFDAC should be further strengthened through provision of adequate personnel, training and analytical facilities to do this.
School curricula should include recognition of safe food, from the primary school level. These
recommendations if implemented would help in delivering safer foods to Nigerians.