Consumers in Nigeria have been cautioned against eating fruits and vegetables that have been washed with soaps and detergents because of their harmful effects on the body.
Dr Ikechi Agbugba, a lecturer at the Department of Agricultural and Applied Economics, Rivers State University, Port Harcourt, gave this advice in interview with newsmen in Lagos today. He said soaps and detergents are produced for washing clothes and not agricultural produce, adding that ingesting them contribute to a lot of the illnesses people are contending with these days.
Agbugba observed that traders use soaps in the market or their shops to remove dirt from fruits, vegetables, root crops and nuts. “The use of detergent and soap in washing off dirt from fruits, vegetables and some agricultural produce is rampart, especially among retail traders in agricultural produce.”
He said it is a common sight to see retailers immersing nut produce like groundnuts and tiger nuts in soapy and detergent water to remove the dirt. Agbugba said the shells of the nuts absorb water and swell up fast adding that once the fruits, nuts, vegetables, root crops membrane absorbed the chemical it spread to their inner parts.
Agbugba, who is also a vegetable expert, attributed the unwholesome practice to ignorance even as he urged consumers to get involved and take seriously what they bought with their money for consumption.
He called on government at all levels and other stakeholders to embark on intensive enlightenment campaign to curb the use of soaps and chemicals in washing agricultural produce so as to safeguard the health and wellbeing of Nigerian consumers.
Agbugba noted that in the olden days, parents used ordinary water to wash dirt off fruits, vegetables and tubers like carrots, potatoes and yams, adding that they lived long and healthy lives without the illnesses prevalent in the society today. The Lecturer said that traders and retailers could use ordinary water, foam and local sponge which were friendly to the body to wash dirt off their goods.
He urged the relevant government agencies to enforce the laws on safe handling of agricultural produce and products and also educate traders on hygienic ways of handling them for sale.
Agbugba called on market officials to create awareness among their members to stop using detergents and soap to wash agricultural produce and products.
The university don also challenged the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) to take urgent steps to curb the dangerous practice. He said they could begin by entering the markets across the nation as this would make them have first-hand experience of how the markets, where the consumers they were protecting buy their food stuffs, looked like.