With health officials not bothering to conduct regular checks, several vendors in the city continue to sell fruits that have been injected with chemicals like calcium carbide to get them to ripen early.
A fruit vendor on Hambran Road said: “Fruits like mangoes, bananas and papaya are injected with carbide gas along with substandard quality wax to speed up the ripening process.”
He added, “Almost all vendors use these chemicals. Fruits are usually transported from faraway places and, due to their perishable nature, wholesalers ensure they don’t ripen naturally”.
Despite posing serious health risks, the health department has failed to curb the sale of fruits ripened artificially by chemicals.
HK Tiwari, a former professor of microbiology, said: “In India the use of calcium carbide (popularly known as ‘masala’) to induce early ripening of fruits is banned under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 and offenders are liable to be imprisoned for up to six-months besides facing stiff fines. The use of calcium carbide for ripening fruits is carcinogenic and causes mouth ulcers, gastric irritation and food poisoning, which can often be fatal.”
He added, “Acetylene gas produced from calcium carbide affects the neurological system by inducing prolonged hypoxia and may lead to headaches, dizziness, mood swings, sleepiness, mental confusion, memory loss, cerebral edema and seizures.”
Meanwhile, district health officer Kulvinder Singh Bassi said: “We will begin collecting samples of fruits sold by vendors in the city and, after getting them tested in labs, take the necessary action against those found to have breached PFA regulations.”