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Artificially ripened fruits raise health alarm in Kashmir

FSSAI warns against hazardous calcium carbide use
01:51 AM May 23, 2024 IST | Rabiya Bashir
artificially ripened fruits raise health alarm in kashmir

Srinagar, May 22:   Concerns are mounting in Kashmir over the potential health hazards posed by the artificial ripening of fruits, particularly bananas and mangoes, which are widely consumed, including by children.


This comes after FSSAI warned traders, fruit handlers, and Food Business Operators (FBOs) not to use prohibited calcium carbide for the artificial ripening of fruits.


FSSAI has also advised the Food Safety Departments of states and Union Territories to remain vigilant and take serious action and deal stringently against persons indulging in such unlawful practices as per the provisions of the FSS Act, 2006 and rules and regulations made there under.


Following the advisory, people in Kashmir are worried about whether the fruits available in the market are being ripened naturally or using artificial agents like calcium carbide, which poses serious health risks including cancer, respiratory problems, and other adverse effects.


Most of the bananas sold in the region are imported unripened from other parts of the country and are artificially ripened using agents like ethylene gas in the HMT area of Srinagar.


With no check from the authorities and inspections in the ripening chambers of Kashmir, residents remain apprehensive about the safety of these fruits.


“It's terrifying to think that the fruits we feed our children could be laced with harmful chemicals,” said Farida Mir, a worried mother from Srinagar.


She said that they didn’t know that these substances were being used to ripen these fruits artificially.

“I’ve heard stories of people experiencing nausea, vomiting, and even burning sensations in their mouths after consuming artificially ripened fruits. It’s a serious concern that needs to be addressed urgently,” said Sajad Ahmad, a resident.

However, Bashir Ahmad, President of Fruit Mandi, Parimpora, told Greater Kashmir that bananas in Kashmir were being ripened in chambers using ethylene gas, which was permissible and safe.

“For the past 8-10 years, ethylene gas has been used for ripening bananas, which is scientifically proven to be safe. Many units have been established here specifically for this purpose. Calcium carbide has been banned everywhere. Mangoes come from other states and we don't know about the ripening process. Melons, grapes, and watermelons are also being imported from other states and are naturally grown. Only bananas are being ripened here in a safe way,” he said.

Ahmad said that they had conducted meetings regarding this issue.

“We have asked the dealers to follow the central guidelines, and they are complying with them,” he said.

Ahmad stressed that if calcium carbide was being used, the administration should take action against those using such chemicals.

“The government should take decisive action in verifying the quality and safety of fruits available in the market,” he said.

Meanwhile, medical experts acknowledged the potential health hazards of consuming fruits ripened with calcium carbide.

Head of the Department of Community Medicine at Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar, Dr Saleem Khan told Greater Kashmir that the artificial ripening of fruits was done by using ethylene gas which was similar to natural phenomena and was permissible under the government norms within the prescribed limits.

He said if someone was using banned calcium carbide, locally called masala for the ripening of fruits, it posed serious health concerns.

“Calcium carbide and acetylene gas pose multiple health challenges ranging from acute mouth and nose irritation, difficulty in swallowing, persistent thirst, vomiting, dizziness and fatigue to chronic skin damage, skin ulcer, and kidney failure. It has neurological manifestations, teratogenic effects, increased risk to diabetes, cancer, inflammation, and damages to vital organs of the body including lungs, heart, liver and kidneys,” Dr Khan said.

He said acetylene was a highly flammable gas and exploded into big fires.

“It can also cause breathing problems in those who work around it and can even lead to lung oedema and heart arrest. This poses more of a risk to fruit workers than people who eat fruit. Even prostate and colon cancer has been reported in such exposures,” Dr Khan said.

Head of the Department of Oncology, SKIMS, Dr Javaid Rasool told Greater Kashmir that any adulterated food was not good for health.

He said that there had been no research on calcium carbide in Kashmir but preservatives could lead to serious health complications.

Assistant Commissioner, Food Safety Srinagar, Yamin-ul-Nabi told Greater Kashmir that the department would take action if fruits like bananas were found ripened in the wrong way.

He said that they had launched comprehensive testing measures across various areas of Srinagar.

“We have taken samples of fruits like grapes, watermelon, and melon but these all are safe to consume. We have collected other food samples for analytical purposes. Regarding bananas, we will do market checks and inspect the chambers in HMT. There is no need to panic as the department is closely monitoring the situation,” he said.