GOALPARA, June 9 - The demand for fresh fruits during the month of Ramzan is obviously high, while the traders and retailers are under great pressure to maintain a constant supply of fruits in the market.
Fruits like bananas, mangoes, apples,watermelons, pears and some imported fruits are in high demand. As such, some traders use unscrupulous means to ripen the fruits artificially, which includes use of chemicals like calcium carbide, thus compromising the health of the gullible consumers.
Strangely enough, the district administration has become a silent onlooker and refused to acknowledge the gravity of the problem even though they are aware of carbide-laced fruits flooding the market on a regular basis.
Talking to this Correspondent, officials from the Dudhnoi-based Krishi Vikas Kendra (KVK) Dr Hitu Choudhury said that calcium carbide, a potentially harmful compound known to have carcinogenic properties is being used to ripen climacteric fruits such as mangoes, apples, bananas and apricot, among others, i.e., fruit ripening associated with increased ethylene production while non-climacteric fruits like citrus fruits i.e., grapes, strawberries are ripened without ethylene.
He informed that this compound in contact with water produces acetylene gas that hastens the ripening of fruits like mangoes, bananas, apples etc., and this chemical becomes extremely hazardous as it contains traces of arsenic and phosphorous which have deleterious effects on the human body. He further said that calcium carbide is industrially used in the production of calcium cyanamide and in welding. Consumption of such artificially ripened fruits may cause ulcers, gastric, diarrhoea, skin rashes and other ailments, Choudhury further added.
It is under such circumstances that a section of the conscious citizens have expressed awe and questioned the dubious role of the Food, Civil Supplies & Consumer Affairs Department, particularly the Food Safety officials in the district, as no action was forthcoming to prevent such illegal activities.