FSSAI prohibits traders, FBOs to use banned calcium carbide for artificial ripening of fruits

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has notified traders, fruit handlers, and food business operators (FBOs) not to use prohibited Calcium Carbide for artificial

ripening of fruits and if they do strict actions will be taken against the users. FSSAI has asked them to use approved material like ethylene in a proper manner as it has already prohibited the use of Calcium Carbide, also known as ‘Masala’ as a ripening agent for artificial ripening of fruits as per the provision in the sub-regulation of Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulation, 2011.

Acetylene gas released from Calcium Carbide is equally harmful to handlers, yet still has been brought to the notice of FSSAI that the traders/handlers are still indulging in the use of prohibited material i.e. Calcium Carbide or are using the approved sources of ethylene gas in an incorrect manner like dipping the fruits in ripening agent solutions which may render the fruits unsafe for human consumption.

FSSAI directed that all the traders’/fruit handlers’/FBOs’ operating ripening chambers are directed to strictly comply with the directions and refrain from using any prohibited material or deploying approved sources of ethylene in an incorrect manner for artificial ripening of the fruits.

And any such incidence will be dealt with stringently and serious action will be taken against the person(s) indulging in such unlawful practices as per the provisions of the FSS Act, 2006, and Rules/Regulations made thereunder. FSSAI noted that the ripening of fruits is a natural phenomenon that makes the fruits edible, palatable, and nutritious for consumers. Artificial ripening is a process by which fruits are ripened artificially in a controlled manner to achieve the desired outcomes like optimum ripening and better consumer acceptance apart from ensuring a longer shelf life of fruits.

Artificial ripening also facilitates the transportation of fruits like mango. Mangoes are transported to distant places in unripe conditions to avoid losses and are artificially ripened at the destination market before sale. However, due to the presence of traces of arsenic and phosphorus, which are harmful to humans and may cause dizziness, frequent thirst, irritation, weakness, difficulty in swallowing, vomiting, skin ulcers, etc., the regulator said that there are chances that calcium carbide may come in direct contact with fruits during application and leave residues of arsenic and phosphorus on fruits.

Thus, the use of this chemical for the ripening of fruits is banned in India. FSSAI has accepted ‘ethylene’ as a safe ripening agent at a concentration of up to 100 ppm (100μl/L) depending upon the crop, variety, and maturity through sources like ethephon, ethereal, etc. Treatment of unripe fruits with ethylene gas triggers the ripening process until the fruit itself starts producing ethylene in large quantities. FSSAI said it has been directed that such materials should also not come in contact directly with the fruits to be ripened artificially.

A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) detailing all aspects of the artificial ripening of fruits by ethylene gas has already been issued by FSSAI. The regulator also urged consumers it to bring to the notice of State Commissioners of Food Safety if they find any use of calcium carbide (Masala) or any wrong practice of using ripening agents.