Assam Food Safety Department cracks down on Carbide-laden fruits in Guwahati


Continuing its drive against carbide-laden fruits the Food Safety Department of Assam conducted a drive at Fancy Bazar area in Guwahati and seized a large quantity of mangoes containing carbide.
The officials of the Food Safety Department also conducted the drive in the Bongaigaon district on Thursday aiming at ensuring food safety.

A senior official of the Food Safety department told ANI over the phone that, the staff of Food Safety went to the fruit market of Fancy Bazar in Guwahati, Pagalasthan and Barabazar in Bongaigaon and checked various fruits including mangoes.

“We have collected the samples of different fruits and sent them to the laboratory for necessary testing,” the officer said.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has alerted traders, fruit handlers and Food Business Operators (FBOs) operating ripening chambers to strictly ensure compliance with the prohibition on calcium carbide for artificial ripening of fruits, particularly during the mango season.
FSSAI is also advising Food Safety Departments of States and Union Territory to remain vigilant and take serious action and deal stringently against the person(s) indulging in such unlawful practices as per the provisions of the FSS Act, 2006 and Rules and Regulations made thereunder.

Calcium carbide, commonly used for ripening fruits like mangoes, releases acetylene gas which contains harmful traces of arsenic and phosphorus. These substances, also known as ‘Masala’, can cause serious health issues such as dizziness, frequent thirst, irritation, weakness, difficulty in swallowing, vomiting and skin ulcers. Additionally, acetylene gas is equally hazardous to those handling it.

There are chances that calcium carbide may come in direct contact with fruits during application and leave residues of arsenic and phosphorus on fruits.

Due to these dangers, the use of calcium carbide for ripening fruits has been banned under Regulation 2.3.5 of the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations, 2011.

This regulation explicitly 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.”
Considering the issue of rampant use of banned calcium carbide, FSSAI has permitted the use of ethylene gas as a safer alternative for fruit ripening in India. Ethylene gas can be used at concentrations up to 100 ppm (100 ml/L), depending upon the crop, variety and maturity. Ethylene, a naturally occurring hormone in fruits, regulates the ripening process by initiating and controlling a series of chemical and biochemical activities.

The treatment of unripe fruits with ethylene gas triggers the natural ripening process until the fruit itself starts producing ethylene in substantial quantities.

Further, the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIB and RC) have approved Ethephon 39 per cent SL for the uniform ripening of mangoes and other fruits.