The Delhi High Court on Wednesday sought a reply from the Delhi Government on a public interest litigation seeking a direction to check the sale of fruits and vegetables coated with artificial colours and chemicals in the Capital’s wholesale and retails markets.

Seeking the reply, a Division Bench headed by Justice G. Rohini posted the mater on May 19 for further hearing along with another petition seeking direction against use of harmful pesticides in fruits and vegetables.

The petitioners — social activists Sharad Tiwari and Sanjiv Agnihotri — sought direction for action against those responsible for colouring of vegetables and fruits, and polishing of rice, wheat and pulses with “cancerous and harmful substances”.

The petitioners further said that the Directorate of Prevention of Food Adulteration of the State Government was not taking action in the matter despite knowing that polished food grains and coloured vegetables and fruits containing hazardous substances were being sold openly in wholesale and retail outlets.

They further submitted that before moving the Court they had written to the Delhi Government and the Directorate, but received no response.

The petitioners alleged that artificial colours and chemicals were used to maintain the freshness of fruits and vegetables. As the Capital gets the bulk of its supply of fruits and vegetables from outside, they lose their shine and freshness by the time they reach here. To revive them, traders put the vegetables in water and then apply artificial colours on them. As far as fruits are concerned, traders put chemicals on them to maintain their shine, the petitioners alleged.

Hormones are also injected into vegetables like lauki (bottle gourd) to increase their size and weight, the petitioners alleged. They submitted that toxic elements in artificial colours and chemicals used to maintain the freshness and shine of vegetables and fruits damaged organs and caused cancer.

The most commonly artificially coloured and shined vegetables and fruits in the market include lauki, karela, ladyfinger, cucumber, brinjal, parwal and apples.

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