By Nigar Orujova
Many Azerbaijanis are in love with summer because of the nice weather, which affords them the opportunity to take trips to the regions of the country and the Caspian Sea shore. The main companion in all of these journeys is the sweetest delight of the summer – watermelon.
There is a special ritual in Azerbaijan of eating watermelon with local white cheese, with or without bread. The mouthwatering combination is in the dreams of Azerbaijanis year round and everyone rushes to buy watermelon as soon as summer arrives.
This might not be a good idea, however, as watermelons are the most ripe and ready to eat in the second part of summer.
People should wait to buy watermelons until July 20, said Yagub Ibrahimov, head of the Toxicology Control Laboratory of the State Phytosanitary Supervision Service under the Azerbaijan Agriculture Ministry.
He stressed a nitrate content over 60 mg per kilogram of watermelon and above 90 mg in cantaloupes increases the risk of poisoning. “But if it is below 60 mg and 90 mg, respectively, then there is no threat of poisoning,” said Ibrahimov.
Nitrates above the norm were discovered in the watermelons currently being sold and withdrawn from markets, he added
About 600 kg of watermelons and melons were withdrawn from sale as part of the research, as monitoring continues.
“This is connected to the fact that watermelons are grown in greenhouses, and then transplanted to the open areas. They are excessively fertilized for fast maturing and getting more profits. If the agronomic rules are not respected and plants are fertilized over the norm, the level of nitrates in melons is more,” Ibrahimov said.
The head of the laboratory noted that members of at risk groups including pregnant women, children, the elderly, and sick people should eat less watermelon.
“It is also not recommended to eat watermelons in the evening, as it raises the blood pressure. It is also harmful to eat watermelon, that was cut and kept in the refrigerator,” the expert noted.
No problems with the quality of other seasonal fruits were observed, he added.
Ibrahimov noted that people should stop buying melons on the road, as they are not tested and may be harmful. To solve the problem, the Ministry plans to check the level of nitrates in the melons on site.
Earlier this week, it was reported that a family of six people including a one-year-old baby, were hospitalized in Zagatala after eating watermelon. The family received medical treatment and their conditions have stabilized.
In general, over 400 people have suffered from food poisoning this year so far, the Health Ministry reported. Fourteen people were infected with botulism.
The main cause for poisoning is the consumption of products that were conserved at home.
In comparison with the same period the last year, however, the number of food poisoning cases has decreased by 36.5 percent.
No one wants to suffer from food poisoning especially during summer holidays. To prevent yourselves from this downer this summer, try to wait until August to enjoy as much watermelon as you want.
Nigar Orujova is AzerNews’s staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @o_nigar
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