Illegal Ripening of Fruits Exposes Millions of Kenyans to Cancer

Dr. Mahesh Zagade, Food Commissioner, Maharashtra state, Food and Drug Administration, India

In an investigation in Kenya and India, writer Kiprotich Koros, discovers how corrupt businessmen use cancer-causing chemicals to ripen fruits. Officials now warn millions of people risk early grave by eating fruits laced with these chemicals.

An investigations in the past one month has unearthed rampant use of calcium carbide – an artificial ripening agent – by unscrupulous traders and supermarkets in Nairobi and Mombasa.

The chemical is used to hasten ripening of bananas, mangoes and apples for sale to millions of Kenyans. The chemical uniformly ripens fruits making them desirable to customers.

Samples taken from three leading supermarkets and groceries in Nairobi and Mombasa 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 using the chemical secretly.

Fruit adulterated with calcium carbide may also be finding their way to Kenya from other parts of the world as there are no laws governing its use. The Pesticide Product Control Board (PPCB), Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS), Government Chemist and Kenya Agricultural Research Institute (KARI) are unable to test for the chemical as they did not have the necessary equipment or protocols.

Despite the serious health risks it poses, it is not listed by the Pesticides Control Products Board (PCPB) as a banned substance.

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.

This raises major public health concerns with the steep rise of cancer cases in the country over the past few years.

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 occuring in the same year.

Source: All Africa

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