Ahead of the key mango season in the country, the Food Safety and Standards Authority (FSSAI) has directed traders, fruit handlers and food business operators (FBOs) to ensure they do not use calcium carbide , a prohibited material, as a ripening agent for fruits. It added that strict action will be taken against errant FBOs.

According to FSSAI regulations, use of Calcium Carbide, also known as Masala, is prohibited as it is harmful for humans.

The Food Authority, in its recent order, said that it has been brought to its attention instances of traders and fruit handlers continuing to use the prohibited material, Calcium Carbide, for artificial ripening of fruits. It also mentioned instances of improper use of “approved sources of ethylene gas,” such as dipping fruits in ripening agent solutions, which may render the fruits unsafe for human consumption.

“All the traders’/fruits handlers/FBOs operating ripening chambers are directed to strictly comply with the Standard Operating Procedure for artificial ripening with ethylene gas,” it said. It added that such FBOs must refrain from using any prohibited material or deploying approved sources of ethylene in an incorrect manner for artificial ripening of the fruits. “Any such incidence, noticed, shall be dealt stringently and serious action will be taken against the person(s) indulging in such unlawful practices as per the provisions of FSS Act, 2006 and Rules/Regulations made thereunder,” the FSSAI added.

Safe agent

Artificial ripening methods are used to facilitate the transportation of fruits such as mangoes, which must be transported across the country in unripe condition. Mangoes soften and become perishable after ripening and cannot be transported in this state. It is also done to achieve optimal ripening in order to improve consumer acceptance.

“ In order to ensure that fruit ripening is strictly regulated as per the permitted practices through the use of approved sources of ethylene only, FSSAI has recognised ‘ethylene’ as a safe ripening agent at a concentration up to 100 ppm (100μl/L) depending upon the crop, variety, and maturity through sources like ethephon, ethereal etc,” the FSSAI reiterated.

The food authority reiterated that it has notified a Standard Operating Procedure detailing all aspects of the artificial ripening of fruits using approved sources of ethylene gas.

FSSAI has also urged consumers to report to the concerned State Commissioners of Food Safety if they come across wrong practices used for artificial ripening of fruits