Amritsar, January 31
In the absence of adequate numbers of fruit-ripening plants in the district, exotic fruits are being sold in the city markets. This has posed a risk to the health of buyers as fruit sellers resort to indiscriminate use of fruit-ripening chemicals to preserve them.
Fruits such as papaya, banana, apple and others are sold after being ripened using calcium carbide, popularly known as “masala”. Consumers have no choice but to consume fruit ripened with chemicals as the government has not established a fruit ripening plant here. The government established fruit ripening plants in many districts of the state but the same has not been provided here.
Gaurav Mahendru, a fruit trader, said pack houses serve an important purpose of ripening fruits in cold storages, using ethylene gas under controlled temperature of 15 degree celsius. A city with a population of about 15 lakh, a large number of tourists and high floating population needs huge quantity of fruit. Wholesale fruit market at Vallah is the biggest market in the region as it serves all satellite towns and adjoining Tarn Taran, Batala and Gurdaspur districts.
Mohan Singh said merchants use the cheapest form of chemical, which had traces of carcinogenic compounds such as arsenic and phosphorous hydride. He added that use of calcium carbide for ripening of fruits was banned under the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) rules, 1955 and also under the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on sales) Regulation Act, 2011. Calcium carbide when comes in contact with water produces acetylene gas which quickens the ripening of fruit, but the fruit ripened using this method are inferior in taste and flavour, he observed.
He elaborated that fruit ripened artificially using calcium carbide on consumption cause several harmful effects to human health. The first and foremost symptoms appear as the throat becomes sore leading to cough, sneezing and fever. Being cheap and easily available in the market, calcium carbide is being indiscriminately used in preference to other recommended practices of ripening fruits.
The proposal for setting up the fruit-ripening plant at the Vallah fruit and vegetable market could not be implemented as the area falls under a restricted zone because of its proximity to an Army ammunition depot.