The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has  asked  traders, fruits handlers and Food Business Operators (FBOs) to strictly ensure compliance with norms for artificial ripening of fruits. It stressed that the  norms prohibit use of calcium carbide for artificial ripening of fruits. 

This advisory comes during the key mango season. 

FSSAI  has directed food safety departments of all states and UTs to remain vigilant. In its advisory, it has asked states and UTs to “take serious action and deal stringently” against those that are indulging in “such unlawful practices as per the provisions of FSS Act, 2006 and Rules/Regulations.”

FSSAI said in a statement that calcium carbide, commonly used to ripen fruits like mangoes, releases acetylene gas, which contains harmful traces of arsenic and phosphorus.

“These substances, can cause serious health issues such as dizziness, frequent thirst, irritation, weakness, difficulty in swallowing, vomiting and skin ulcers, etc. 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,” the statement added. 

Due to these dangers, the use of calcium carbide for ripening fruits has been banned under 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,• the FSSAI pointed out. 

The norms permit  the use of ethylene gas as a safer alternative for fruit ripening in India, the statement added.