The raid was conducted by State Food Laboratory officials, who found large quantities of ethylene powder packets stuffed inside boxes of mangoes.

Raid in Hyds Kothapet fruit market reveals use of harmful powder to ripen fruitsImage for representation
news Food safety Wednesday, April 04, 2018 - 07:51

One of Telangana's biggest fruit markets in Hyderabad's Kothapet area has landed in controversy again as a raid by officials on Monday revealed that ethylene powder along with carcinogenic chemicals were being used to ripen fruits artificially.

The raid was conducted by State Food Laboratory officials, who found large quantities of ethylene powder packets stuffed inside boxes of mangoes. 

“Fruits should be free from harmful chemicals. Health is our top priority and we will take strict action against people flouting norms. Ethylene can be used only as gas to ripen fruits in chambers since it gets equally distributed. If ethylene powder is used, we cannot keep tab on the concentration of the chemical,” K Shanker, director of Institute Of Preventive Medicine, Public Health Labs And Food Administration (Telangana) was quoted as saying.

The ethylene ripeners come in sachets that cost Rs 4, and release the gas through small holes that are punched into it, before it is put inside a box of mangoes. The powder is forbidden under the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations, 2011, reports add.

In April last year, tension prevailed at the Kothapet fruit market after authorities cancelled the licences of 91 shops, after they were found to be ripening fruits artificially with carbide.

Calcium Carbide, a dangerous and corrosive chemical used to make fertilizers, is known to have carcinogenic properties and cause digestive problems.

Despite this, it is still widely used to ripen mangoes quickly. Farmers tend to pluck mangoes early as they need to be transported to the market. 

Once it is in the market, mango traders ripen them artificially to clear their stocks sooner. Moreover, the fruits look more attractive when they are artificially ripened garnering more consumers. The chemical is also used to ripen fruits like banana.

However, the substance may cause cancer, permanent eye damage, ulcers and even lung issues.

Moreover, artificial ripening of fruits is banned under the Food Safety and Standards Act (FSSA), 2006.

The state government provides the farmers and traders with ethylene chambers in large markets, where they can ripen their fruits in a less harmful way.

However, farmers and traders often complain that the capacity of the chamber is inadequate, compared to the amount of fruits coming into the market.

In 2015, the Hyderabad High Court ordered a thorough probe on fruit traders who use calcium carbide to ripen fruits and called them "worse than terrorists".

"For earning some extra rupees, you are putting scores of lives at risk. Such traders are worse than terrorists, killing generations of people with slow poison," the bench had said at the time.

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