Tribune News Service
Chandigarh, May 21
With the Health Department tightening the noose around traders to curb the use of calcium carbide for artificial ripening of fruits at the fruit and vegetable market in Sector 26, the traders have replaced it with the Chinese ethylene powder.
The market is full of sachets of the Chinese ethylene powder, lying scattered all over the place after being thrown out of cartons used to transport mangoes.
These sachets expose visitors to emissions of the hazardous chemical.
Experts say exposure to the chemical can cause the same ill-effects as caused by calcium carbide. The packets are also dangerous to cows and other animals at the market that survive on vegetable waste. While the traders claim the use of the Chinese ethylene powder is allowed, officers of the Health Department are waiting for a report of the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India on it.
The Department of Food Safety has served notices on all 111 fruit traders warning them of stern action, including termination of the licence, in case they are found using the banned calcium carbide for ripening of fruits.
Sukhvinder Singh, designated officer, Food and Safety Department, said samples of ethylene powder collected from mango cartons had been sent to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India to check for artificial ripening chemicals beyond the permissible limit.
“This ethylene is in the form of a starchy powder, which slowly releases ethylene gas that causes mangoes and other fruits to ripen. Sources said besides the Chinese sachets, the use of calcium carbide had not stopped completely in the market despite thes crackdown.
While checks are being carried out at the mandi, there is no check in apni mandis where "masala' is mainly used for ripening of mangoes, bananas and papaya, and sometimes also for cheeku and tomatoes.” They said while the actual process required five to six days for repining of fruits, "with the use of calcium carbide, it takes a few hours to ripen these".
Papaya gets costlier
Raids conducted by the department has increased the rates of papaya by two times. Papaya was available for Rs 40 a kg on Sunday, the highest this season. A trader said the supply of papaya had decreased by over 50 per cent after the raids, which had led to the increase in its prices.
Over 3 tonnes of fruits destroyed so far
The Department of Food Safety has destroyed over three tonnes of mangoes and papaya ripened by using calcium carbide in five raids conducted in the past one month.
How to identify artificially ripened mangoes
Experts say an artificially ripened mango will have green patches. These patches are clearly distinguishable from the yellow and unlike a naturally ripened mango, it will not have a uniform blend of yellow and green. Artificially ripened mango will also have an unnaturally bright yellow colour when compared to a naturally ripened mango. The artificially ripened mango causes slight burning in the mouth.
'Have ordered regular checks'
"I have already issued directions to officers of the Department of Food Safety to carry out regular checks to curb the use of calcium carbide for ripening of fruits. The use of calcium carbide is dangerous for human beings."
Dr Rakesh Kashyap, Director, Health Services
Traders want an alternative
"The Administration has stopped the use of calcium carbide without providing the traders any alternative. The Chinese sachets for ripening of fruits are also not available in the city, causing a huge loss to the traders."
Brij Mohan, VP, Fruit & Vegetable Market Assn
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