May 9, 2018

Traders ripen mangoes with ethylene, officials don’t know to act

Guntur: Sleuths of vigilance and enforcement and food safety authority carried out surprise raids at fruits markets in Guntur and Tenali on Tuesday. The officials found merchants using high quantities of ethylene powder to ripen mangos stored in godowns.
The raids that continued till the evening covered nearly 100 outlets at wholesale markets in these two major towns of the district. The officials seized artificial ripening chemicals and fruit samples from the merchants.
“We are sending the samples for chemical analysis to food safety laboratory in Nacharam. We will take action following the lab findings,” said a senior official of vigilance and enforcement wing.
However, the officials are clueless about how to take action against the traders using the artificial ripening chemicals that are imported from China.
“Though using ethylene is not banned in India, we do not know what the sachets being used by the merchants contain,” said Srinivasa Rao, food safety official who was present during the raids. He added that ethylene should be used as per the recommended dosages and the indiscriminate use of the chemical may be harmful for health.
Sources said that the food safety laboratory confirmed the presence of ethephon in the ethylene samples, which were seized and sent for analysis by the food safety officials and vigilance sleuths in Vijayawada during the last mango season.
Since no trader or their attendants were trained in using ethylene, the officials think that the fruits are being ripened early owing to chemical reactions. “The traders stopped using calcium carbide, fearing imprisonment. But using ethylene indiscriminately is also harmful,” said an official.
*Sale of fruits ripened by calcium carbide has been banned under clause 2.3.5 of the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations, 2011
*Union agriculture ministry has recommended the use of ethylene gas in low concentration exogenously to ripen fruits
*Using ethylene gas or ethephon has been scientifically recommended as a safe alternative to ripen banana and other seasonal fruits.
*Ethylene is not harmful if it is used as per the recommended dose
*The merchants are using small sachets of ethylene powder imported from China
*High Court of Hyderabad directed both AP and Telangana state governments to construct ripening chambers and make merchants avoid artificial ripening
*There are no ripening chambers in Guntur district
*Direct exposure of fruit to ethylene powder is neither scientific nor permitted
*Surprisingly, there are no guidelines to act against the violators
*The ripening treatment with the gas is carried out in an airtight room for 24 hours at low temperature in high humidity

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