Certificates given by dealers, suppliers could curb artificial ripening

Food safety experts have called for the introduction of guidelines, including Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), for ripening of fruits following reports of the use of chemicals for ripening mangoes.

The Kochi City police seized 40 kg of mangoes on Saturday, suspected to be ripened using calcium carbide, from a fruit stall at Nettoor market. Besides the mangoes, the police also seized five kg of calcium carbide and detained Sanu, 38, of Nettoor, who operated the stall.

The introduction of GMP for ripening of fruits for domestic markets can address the issue to a considerable extent, says M.K. Mukundan, the director of Council for Food Research Development, Konni.

Dealers and suppliers of fruits need to be made to follow a set of procedures for ripening of fruits and its storage. Certificates regarding the ripening of fruits should be provided by the dealers and suppliers. They should be asked to follow GMP for ripening methods. The premises used for ripening and storage should also be certified, suggests Dr. Mukundan.

Acetylene and ethylene gases trigger natural ripening process. Introduction of smoke fumes, as followed in the traditional methods of ripening, helps trigger the process, he says.

Though no GMP is seriously followed for ripening of fruits in domestic markets, exporters to foreign markets, especially the European countries, closely follow the procedures. Representatives of these nations often inspect the storage and ripening facilities of the export agencies, he says.

The Food Safety and Standards Act has prohibited the use of carbide gas in ripening of fruits. The Act specifies that “no person shall sell or offer or expose for sale or have in his premises for the purpose of sale under any description, fruits which have been artificially ripened by use of acetylene gas, commonly known as carbide gas.” However, the use of ethylene gas (fruit ripening plant hormone) in low concentration has been permitted to trigger the ripening of fruits.

K. Ajithkumar, the designated officer of the Food Safety and Standards Act, says the law permits only natural ripening of fruits. He too suggested following of GMP for ripening of fruits. Law prescribes a punishment of imprisonment up to two years and fine up to Rs. 5 lakh for the use of carbide gas, often used for inducing uniform ripening of fruits, he says.

Though the traces of the chemicals can be identified in labs, the consumers of fruits can escape the ill-effects of the use of calcium carbide gas by thoroughly washing the fruits. Peeling off the skin of the fruits would also help in avoiding the chemicals, he suggests.

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