Use of banned calcium carbide continues to ripen fruits

Despite a ban by the state Horticulture Department, the use of harmful chemicals like calcium carbide by vendors to ripen fruits continues unabated.
Whether it is the wholesale market at Narwal mandi or small vendors selling different fruits on roadsides, there has been no let up in the malpractices in ripening fruits.
Pertinently, calcium carbide is a known carcinogen, a cancer-producing chemical which is known to have harmful effects on the liver and other parts of the body. It also contains traces of arsenic and phosphorus hydride which produce several acute and chronic health effects. Artificial ripening is banned under the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act, 1954 and the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955.
“Other chemicals like ethephon and oxytocin are also being used in ripening fruits and vegetables for increasing their size but calcium carbide is more commonly used,” Sangram Kumar, a fruit seller from Gandhi Nagar, said.
Girish, a fruit vendor in the Shastri Nagar area, said after the ban, the quantity of chemical use in ripening the fruits was decreased but not completely stopped. “Earlier, we used to put calcium carbide in the packets containing fruits every night and the next morning, we used to sell them but now, we are not using it much. Tomato, too, is being ripened with the help of calcium carbide,” he said.
According to health experts, the ‘fruit chaat’ which is offered on roadsides by vendors to people is not that beneficial for health as the general perception is. Mostly, it includes fruits like papaya, watermelon, chiku, grapes and banana which are ripened with the help of calcium carbide.
Recent findings related to carbide poisoning have reported headache, dizziness, mood disturbances, sleepiness, mental confusion and memory loss. Though eating the fruit will not bring about such an allergic reaction, the method of ripening it can cause such problems. Higher exposure may cause a build-up of fluids in the lungs. Eating artificially ripened mangoes can lead to an upset stomach.

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