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19/05/24 | 7:55 pm

FSSAI warns fruit traders against using of calcium carbide for ripening

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has issued a stern reminder to fruit traders, handlers, and Food Business Operators (FBOs) managing ripening chambers to adhere strictly to the prohibition of using calcium carbide for artificial fruit ripening. 

This alert comes at a critical time, particularly during the mango season, to safeguard public health and ensure compliance with the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations, 2011.

Calcium carbide, often used for ripening fruits like mangoes, releases acetylene gas containing harmful traces of arsenic and phosphorus, also referred to as ‘Masala’. These substances pose severe health risks, including dizziness, frequent thirst, irritation, weakness, difficulty in swallowing, vomiting, and skin ulcers. Additionally, acetylene gas poses hazards to handlers, with potential for direct contact with fruits, leaving dangerous residues.

Given these dangers, the use of calcium carbide for ripening fruits is banned under Regulation 2.3.5 of the Food Safety and Standards Regulations, 2011, which clearly states: “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.”

In response to the widespread use of this banned substance, FSSAI has authorized the use of ethylene gas as a safer alternative for fruit ripening in India. Ethylene gas, a natural hormone in fruits, facilitates the ripening process by triggering and controlling chemical and biochemical activities. It can be used at concentrations up to 100 ppm (100 μl/L), depending on the crop, variety, and maturity.

Additionally, the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIB & RC) has approved Ethephon 39% SL for uniform ripening of mangoes and other fruits, offering a safer alternative.

To support the transition, FSSAI has published a detailed guidance document titled “Artificial Ripening of Fruits – Ethylene gas a safe fruit ripener”. This document provides a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) that covers all aspects of artificial ripening using ethylene gas, including restrictions, requirements for ethylene ripening systems, handling conditions, sources of ethylene gas, application protocols, post-treatment operations, and safety guidelines.

FSSAI has also advised the Food Safety Departments of States and Union Territories to stay vigilant and take stringent action against any individuals or entities found using calcium carbide for fruit ripening. Consumers are encouraged to report any use of calcium carbide or incorrect ripening practices to their respective State Commissioners of Food Safety. Contact details for these officials are available here: (https://www.fssai.gov.in/cms/commissioners-of-food-safety.php).

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