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How fruit vendors are killing you softly.

Everyone loves fruits for they are extremely good for our health due to their high nutritional value in vitamins and other nutrients that are essential for our growth and development.

Doctors say that consuming fruits is one of the best ways to stay healthy. However, the health benefits of fruits are threatened by human greed.

It has been discovered that some unscrupulous fruits vendors are using potentially harmful compounds to ripen the fruits.

Investigations have unearthed rampant use of calcium carbide (CaC2) - an artificial ripening agent that has carcinogenic properties that are cancerous, putting the lives of millions of people at risk of an early grave.

Artificial ripening of fruits is done to achieve faster and more uniform ripening characteristics at the cost of its nutritional values.

Samples taken from three leading supermarkets and groceries in the country tested positive for the poisonous chemical used for welding and for making plastics. Wholesale traders in big fruit markets in Gikomba, Nairobi, Marikiti and Kongowea in Mombasa are also said to be using the chemical secretly.

Fruits adulterated with calcium carbide have also found their way to Kenya from other parts of the world as there are no laws governing its use. Some of the mangoes, bananas, oranges and apples in the Kenyan market are imported from Tanzania, Uganda, South Africa, Egypt and as a far as India where calcium carbide use is rampant.

Calcium carbide is said to be hawked at the busy Gikomba market for as little as Sh20 a sachet. These traders wrap a small pellet of the chemical in a small paper and put it next to the pile of fruits. This way the fruits ripen within one or two days.

CaC2 is a known carcinogen - an agent having the ability to alter human cells into cancerous cells. Calcium carbide is extremely hazardous to the human body as it contains traces of arsenic and phosphorus. 

When consumed, the chemical is known to cause ulcers, “a burning sensation that may also be accompanied with diarrhea and vomiting. CaC2 can also leads to skin allergies and rashes and at times can also cause a severe disease like skin cancer.

The chemical also accelerates aging and can lead to miscarriages in pregnant women or the child born with deformities.

Since most of the fruits procured from the market are artificially ripened, the only way to skim the carbide content is to wash the fruits properly. 

How to identify Artificially Ripened fruits?

You have probably peeled a uniformly yellow usually unblemished banana or mango only to find green raw tissue inside. This is just one of tell-tale signs of chemical ripening.

Naturally ripened bananas for example are not uniformly yellow, they are green and yellow. They are not uniformly coloured; rather, they are patchy.

On the other hand, artificially ripened fruits that look very attractive from the outside and have a uniform colour are more likely to have been artificially ripened.

If the stem is dark green but the fruit is yellow, chances are high that it is artificially ripened. Uniformly red tomatoes or uniformly yellow or orange mangoes may also have been artificially ripened.

For example, artificially ripened mangoes will be green and yellow in patches around the surface. This may be because they have been treated and the chemical has not reached the entire fruit. The fruit gets the yellow colour, but since the fruit sugars remain immature, it does not taste sweet. The flesh will also not be fully ripe inside. The artificially ripened fruit will be dry and less juicy as compared to a naturally ripened one. They will also not have the sweet aroma that comes with a natural fruit.

While purchasing fruits and vegetables, remember not to select those that are homogenously ripened and with bright, eye-catching colours.

The habit of washing and peeling before eating the fruit could help in minimising the health risks associated with the use of Calcium Carbide. It is better to cut the fruit into pieces, rather than to consume them directly. And it is not also advisable to buy fruits when they arrive in the market before the due period i.e. early and offseason.

Cancer is the third killer disease in Kenya. According to the Nairobi Cancer Registry, 38,544 new cancer cases were diagnosed in 2012 with 26,941 deaths occurring in the same year.

Unfortunately, little is done to ensure food safety for food distributed in the country said the official. Regulatory authorities suffer from incoordination and there is little surveillance carried out on food being sold within the country. Most of them are made in very poor conditions and sometimes dangerous chemicals are used.

Every trader wants to make quick money especially when demand is higher than the supply. The rush to make quick money is creating a lot of problems for us. 

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