The onset of summer season always comes with juicy and pulpy fruits like watermelon, mangoes, litchis etc. However, experts warn that these fruits can leave you with bitter taste health-wise, if ripened with banned substances like calcium carbide or acetylene gas. The apex food regulator of India, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), has issued directive on Monday to all states and UTs to tackle the issue.
The FSSAI has asked food safety commissioners in all States and UTs to undertake “effective surveillance and enforcement activities” to prevent the use of banned substances – calcium carbide or acetylene gas — for artificial ripening of fruits.
The regulator said that artificial ripening of fruits using prohibited substances poses a serious threat to the health of consumers. The traces of Arsenic and Phosphorous present in Calcium Carbide can cause vomiting, diarrhoea with or without blood, burning sensation of the chest and abdomen, thirst, weakness and other symptoms.
‘These chemicals are neurotoxin and hepatotoxin in nature causing damage to nerves, brain and liver if consumed over the period. Asthma patients can face difficulty in breathing if present at the site where chemicals are being used for ripening of fruits,” said Dr M Wali, Senior Consultant in Medicine at Sir Ganga Ram Hospital. He added if consumed in larger quantity accidently, these chemicals could be fatal.
The FSSAI in its order says, “Despite prohibition on sale of artificially ripened fruits by using calcium carbide, the prevalence of such ripened fruits in the market is a serious cause for concern and needs to be tackled effectively.”
“Commissioners of Food Safety of all States and UTs are hereby directed to initiate effective surveillance and enforcement activities to rule out any possibility of ripening of fruits with the aid of harmful and banned substances- calcium carbide or acetylene gas. They are also advised to do similar exercise for vegetables to check the level of pesticides,” it added.
“The FSS (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations, 2011 provides that no person shall sell or offer or expose for sale or have in his premises for the purpose of sale under any description, fruits which have been artificially ripened by use of acetylene gas, commonly known as carbide gas,” the food safety regulator reminds.
It has also asked commissioners to conduct awareness programmes at Mandi level targeted at vendors and food business operators. It also recommended use of mass media to educate consumers and food businesses regarding this issue. Keeping in mind the rampant use of banned calcium carbide and non-availability of alternative ripening agent, FSSAI had instead permitted the use of ethylene gas for ripening of fruits in 2016.
So, enjoy summer fruits and beat the heat with fruit juices, but at the same time keep in mind that fruits should be ripened in healthier manner.