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  • Context (TH | PIB): FSSAI has asked traders and food business operators not to use the banned product ‘calcium carbide’ for the ripening of fruits.
  • 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.
  • Calcium carbide is a chemical used to ripen fruits artificially. It is also used to keep the fruits fresh, which makes the fruit available all throughout the year, not just during the season.
  • It is mixed with water and releases acetylene gas (commonly known as carbide gas) which helps to ripen the fruit. It is very similar to ethylene, which is a natural hormone produced by fruits. Several ripe fruits also release this gas and hence, certain fruits tend to ripen quickly when kept with other fruits.
  • Known as ‘Masala’, these substances can cause dizziness, frequent thirst, irritation, weakness, difficulty in swallowing, vomiting, and skin ulcers. Acetylene gas is also hazardous to handlers, and residues of arsenic and phosphorus may remain on fruits.

Harmful effects of Calcium Carbide

  • Inhaling calcium carbide can lead to respiratory issues, including coughing, shortness of breath and throat irritation.
  • Inhaling acetylene gas can lead to dizziness and headaches. Also, high concentration can cause unconsciousness.
  • Calcium carbide has impure compounds like arsenic and phosphorus hydride. These can have carcinogenic effects due to long-term exposure, increasing the risk of developing cancer.

Safer alternative for ripening

  • FSSAI permits the use of ethylene gas as a safer alternative for fruit ripening. Ethylene gas is a natural hormone that regulates ripening. It triggers the natural ripening process until the fruit produces ethylene in substantial quantities.
  • The Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIB & RC) has approved Ethephon 39 per cent SL for uniform ripening of mangoes and other fruits.
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