Food regulator warns traders, food business operators not to use prohibited calcium carbide for artificial ripening of fruits

Food regulator FSSAI has warned traders, fruit handlers and food business operators (FBOs) not to use prohibited calcium carbide for artificial ripening of fruits and said strict actions will be taken against the users.

The regulator asked them to use approved material like ethylene in a proper manner.

In a statement, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) said it has already prohibited the use of calcium carbide also known as ‘Masala’ as a ripening agent for artificial ripening of fruits as per the provision in sub-regulation of Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulation, 2011.

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Acetylene gas released from calcium carbide is equally harmful to handlers, it said.

“It has been brought to the notice of FSSAI that the traders/handlers are still indulging in use of prohibited material i.E. Calcium carbide or are using the approved sources of ethylene gas in an incorrect manner like dipping the fruits in ripening agent solutions which may render the fruits unsafe for human consumption,” the statement said.

FSSAI directed that all the traders’/fruits handlers’/FBOs’ operating ripening chambers are directed to strictly comply with the directions and refrain from using any prohibited material or deploying approved sources of ethylene in an incorrect manner for artificial ripening of the fruits.

“Any such incidence would be dealt stringently and serious action will be taken against the person(s) indulging in such unlawful practices as per the provisions of FSS Act, 2006 and Rules/Regulations made thereunder,” it said.

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FSSAI noted that ripening of fruits is a natural phenomenon that makes the fruits edible, palatable, and nutritious for consumers.

Artificial ripening is a process by which fruits are ripened artificially in a controlled manner to achieve desired outcome like optimum ripening and better consumer acceptance apart from ensuring a longer shelf life of fruits.

Artificial ripening also facilitates the transportation of fruits like mango.

Mangoes are transported to distant places in unripe conditions to avoid losses and are artificially ripened at the destination market before sale.

“However, due to the presence of traces of arsenic and phosphorus which is harmful to humans and may cause dizziness, frequent thirst, irritation, weakness, difficulty in swallowing, vomiting, skin ulcer, etc.

“FSSAI has prohibited the use of calcium carbide also known as ‘Masala’ as a ripening agent for artificial ripening of the fruits,” the statement said.

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The regulator said that there are chances that calcium carbide may come in direct contact with fruits during application and leave residues of arsenic and phosphorus on fruits.

“Thus, the use of this chemical for the ripening of fruits is banned in India,” it said.

FSSAI has recognised ‘ethylene’ as a safe ripening agent at a concentration up to 100 ppm (100?l/L) depending upon the crop, variety, and maturity through sources like ethephon, ethereal etc.

Treatment of unripe fruits with ethylene gas triggers the ripening process until the fruit itself starts producing ethylene in large quantities, it added.

FSSAI said it has been directed that such material should also not come in contact directly with the fruits to be ripened artificially.

A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) detailing all aspects of the artificial ripening of fruits by ethylene gas has already been issued by FSSAI.

The regulator also urged consumers to bring to the notices of State Commissioners of Food Safety if they find any use of calcium carbide (Masala) or any wrong practice of using ripening agents.

With PTI Inputs

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