Dr Ochuko Erukainure, a nutritional biochemist, on Friday appealed to health bodies to enlighten the public on health hazard of consuming unripe fruits widely sold in Lagos markets.
Erukainure told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Lagos that the trend could lead to high concentration of anti-nutrients such as tannins, phytate and oxalic acids in consumers.
He said that research had shown that anti-nutrients could prevent the human body from absorbing nutrients, especially micronutrients, leading to their poor utilisation by the human body.
A check in many markets in Lagos showed large volumes of unripe farm produce like fruits and plantain displayed by traders for sale.
These fruits, in spite of days of preservation to ripen, often decayed instead of ripening, thereby denying the consumer of the economic and nutritional gains.
“Mature fruits also contain secondary metabolites produced as a chemical defensive system to drive natural enemies, but they become toxic when immature fruits are consumed, leading to serious health complications.”
Erukainure said that professional bodies like the Nutrition Society of Nigeria (NSN) and the Nigerian Institute of Food Science and Technology (NIFST) should be actively involved in the enlightening programme.
According to him, the creation of such awareness through primary and secondary school subjects like Home Economics and Nutrition will spread early awareness among children.
The expert advised NAFDAC to collaborate with local market leaders to ensure that fruit sellers sold only mature fruits.
“Offenders should be made to face the law,” Erukainure advised.
Erukainure, a Senior Research Officer in the Federal Institute of Industrial Research, Oshodi (FIIRO), said public enlightenment on the implications could be the solution.
He, however, blamed lack of perseveration and poor processing of agricultural produce as major challenges to operators in the food value chain.
“Most times, fruits are harvested before maturity or forcefully ripened to prevent losses.
“Some of these fruits are often kept to ripen, but eventually end up getting spoilt owing to poor storage and processing facilities and access to bigger market due to bad roads,” he said.
The expert said that until government addressed the issues of storage facility and bad roads, losses on the part of the consumers and the traders would continue.