Beware! Your fruit could harm you : The Tribune India

Artificial ripening

Beware! Your fruit could harm you

CHANDIGARH: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.

Beware! Your fruit could harm you

Sachets of Chinese ethylene powder in a mango box to ripen the fruit at the Sector 26 market in Chandigarh on Sunday. S Chandan

Ramkrishan Upadhyay

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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