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Strong penal provisions needed to curb artificial ripening of fruits
Thursday, 13 February, 2020, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Ashwani Maindola, New Delhi
The Delhi High Court has observed that using chemicals for artificially ripening of fruits is tantamount to poisoning of the consumers, and therefore, strong penal provisions are needed to deter the culprits.

While hearing a case initiated by itself as a PIL (public interest litigation) related to use of pesticides and chemical for artificially ripening of the fruits in NCT (National Capital Region) Delhi, it observed that using chemicals like calcium carbide to ripen mangoes is like poisoning somebody, adding that such culprits should be sent to jail, and the Indian Penal Code should be invoked against them.

It has also asked the apex food regulatory body, FSSAI, about the situation regarding the use of calcium carbide for fruit ripening. It has been a common practice across the country to artificially ripen the fruit using powder of calcium carbide.

The Court has also sought an answer from the government about the availability of kits for consumers that can detect the presence of calcium carbide in fruits.

The Delhi Government, in its reply to the Court, has, meanwhile, stated that it was conducting awareness drives and has been picking up samples for testing purposes.

Apart from the PIL initiated by the Delhi High Court suo motu, there was also appeals filed by individuals seeking direction from the Court to the authorities to stop the use of chemicals for the purpose of artificial ripening of fruits.

The appeal was filed by an NGO (non-governmental organisation) based on its findings that fruits sold in Delhi market contain chemicals, which can cause serious illness harming the human body.

According to a report, an analysis presented before the Court by amicus curiae Rahul Jain revealed that due to the excessive use of pesticides in fruits and vegetables, several countries have put Indian fruits and vegetables under scrutiny.

FSSAI has also issued a guidance note on fruit ripening in 2018. The note stated that the use of carbide gas or acetylene gas was not permitted for artificial ripening of the fruits under the Food Safety and Standards Act and regulations thereunder.

However, ethylene gas can be used for artificial ripening at a concentration up to 100ppm, as ethylene plays a vital role in natural ripening of fruits, which is a hormone produced naturally within the fruits to stimulate ripening process. Further, ethylene, being a natural hormone, does not pose any health hazard to consumers.

And sources like ethylene gas cylinders, compressed ethylene as, ethanol, ethephon, etc., can be used for generating ethylene gas.
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