Despite being a hazardous chemical, the ripening of fruits is still practiced with calcium carbide by fruit sellers. It is banned in India, as well as in several other countries.
“Consumption of fruits which are ripened using calcium carbide is highly dangerous to human body; carbide is a carcinogenic (cancer-causing) agent and contains trace elements of arsenic and phosphorous. These two traces lead to skin allergies, burning sensation in chest, ulcers and vomiting. It is strictly banned in India” said Smt. Sharada, chief food analyst at the Food Safety and Standard Department, Bangalore Urban.
“If one individual is eating carbide-ripened fruits it is probably equal to consuming slow poison”, said Srinidhi, State Food Squad, Bangalore.
Fruit market on Avenue road is a hub for calcium carbide, where carbide is sold openly. “You can get carbide if you go to Kaaka shop at the street corner”, said Munwar, a street vendor who sells bananas at that market. Two to three small fruit sellers are selling carbide-ripened fruits, but when asked whether their fruits are ripened using ethylene or carbide, they replied, “it is carbide-ripened fruits, but it is not that harmful to eat, it only releases heat”.
When the issue was raised with Sharada, she said, “Our squad team is doing their best to take action against carbide-ripening fruit sellers but there are 1,000s of street vendors who sell fruits, they can avoid carbide-ripening if they really wanted to.”
“Those who sell carbide-ripened fruits are worse than terrorists”, said Telangana and Andhra Pradesh High Court when it ordered both the states to conduct raids on carbide-ripened fruit sellers, “the issue must be taken seriously at a higher level” says Yeshwanth, once a regular fruit customer, now afraid of buying fruits.
“According to Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), ethylene can be used in artificial ripening under prescribed concentration of 100 ppm (parts per million). As of now we don’t have equipment proving the presence of carcinogenic agents or harmful traces in the chemical used for artificial ripening. But within two-months we will get the equipment to detect so”, said Sharada.
For easy understanding and to spread awareness among people she suggested few parameters mentioned in an article of FSSAI, and recommended by Harshavardhan B, from the Joint Food Safety and Standard Department. Following are the parameters:
|Qualitative Parameters||Artificially Ripened Fruits||Naturally Ripened Fruits|
|Weight per fruit||Fair||Good|
|Texture||Not very attractive but uniformly coloured||Attractive but not uniformly coloured|
|Taste||Sour, mildly pleasant||Sweet, pleasant|
|Shelf-life||Shorter, black botches appear on the skin of the fruit in two to three days.||Longer|
“This year we have conducted 30-40 raids as compared to last year’s 20 raids. People caught are now under prosecution. We go for sudden raids based on the complaints filed, or information from our informers. People who are found guilty in prosecution have their license removed immediately and will be under government control”, told Srinidhi, State Food Squad.
“In Horticultural Producers Cooperative Marketing and Processing Society (HOPCOMS) we use ethylene for artificial ripening of fruits, and it is under FSSAI limitations. We never suggest farmers to use carbide for ripening. Everyone knows carbide-ripened fruits are harmful for health but don’t know how to recognize the chemical”, said Gopal Gowda, manager at HOPCOMS.