SUMMERS BRING the most desirable fruits that everyone loves to indulge in but some of these fruits pose serious health hazards due to the artificial ripening techniques used. The most common chemical used to ripen a fruit artificially is calcium carbide, a strong reactive chemical that is sprayed or injected on fruits.
“These days papayas, bananas and mangoes are injected with chemicals to ripen them in a day or two. This can be observed especially in the mangoes. Since most of our stock comes from different places, a lot of times we can’t say if a fruit is chemically treated just by looking at it. We sell what we get,” says a vendor at Sector 26 market.
According to the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), calcium carbide, mostly used in the gaseous form, makes the fruit soft and uniformly coloured while it depreciates the taste, nutrition value and shelf life of the fruit. Fruits ripened with calcium carbide or acetylene gas put consumers at a risk of diarrhoea, headache, dizziness, intestinal disruption, mood swings and ulcers on the skin or even cancer when consumed over a long period of time.
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About the kind of checks and penalties imposed on the use of a banned substance like calcium carbide, Sukhwinder Singh, designated officer, Food Licensing Authority, says, “To keep a check on such activities, we conduct surprise raids in the vegetable and fruit markets across the city, after which we either take the vendor to task or destroy the chemically treated fruits. Last year, a team including three SDMs, members of Food Supply and Distribution Department and I had conducted a raid at Sector 26 market where we had confiscated tonnes of bananas that were later destroyed.”
Apart from raids, Sukhwinder says that a vendor selling fruits without a licence are challaned up to Rs 5 lakh along with imprisonment for six months and a vendor found selling fruits and vegetables in unhygienic conditions is challaned Rs 1 lakh.
While the authorities claim that there are strict provisions to prevent the use of chemicals in fruits during summers, the vendors across the city believe that no action is taken against vendors who sell artificially ripened fruit, which in turn encourages others to increase their daily sales using artificial substances.