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FSSAI Alerts Fruit Traders on Compliance with Calcium Carbide Ban in Fruit Ripening

Srinagar, May 18: The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has issued a stern reminder to traders, fruit handlers, and Food Business Operators (FBOs) operating ripening chambers to strictly comply with the prohibition on using calcium carbide for artificial fruit ripening, especially during the mango season. FSSAI also urges the Food Safety Departments of States and Union Territories to remain vigilant and take stringent actions against individuals engaged in this illegal practice, as per the provisions of the FSS Act, 2006 and related regulations.

Calcium carbide, often used to ripen fruits like mangoes, releases acetylene gas containing harmful traces of arsenic and phosphorus. These substances, known as ‘Masala,’ can cause severe health issues such as dizziness, frequent thirst, irritation, weakness, difficulty swallowing, vomiting, and skin ulcers. Additionally, acetylene gas poses hazards to handlers, with potential residues of arsenic and phosphorus contaminating the fruits.

The use of calcium carbide for fruit ripening is banned under Regulation 2.3.5 of the 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.”

Given the widespread use of the banned calcium carbide, FSSAI permits the use of ethylene gas as a safer alternative for fruit ripening in India. Ethylene gas can be used at concentrations up to 100 ppm (100 μl/L), depending on the crop, variety, and maturity. Ethylene, a naturally occurring hormone in fruits, initiates and controls the ripening process by triggering a series of chemical and biochemical activities. The treatment of unripe fruits with ethylene gas induces the natural ripening process until the fruit itself starts producing substantial quantities of ethylene.

Additionally, the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIB & RC) has approved Ethephon 39% SL for the uniform ripening of mangoes and other fruits.

FSSAI has published a comprehensive guidance document titled “Artificial Ripening of Fruits – Ethylene gas a safe fruit ripener” (available [here](https://www.fssai.gov.in/upload/uploadfiles/files/Guidance_Note_Ver2_Artificial_Ripening_Fruits_03_01_2019_Revised_10_02_2020.pdf)), advising FBOs on the procedure for artificial ripening of fruits. This document includes a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) covering all aspects of artificial ripening with ethylene gas, such as restrictions, requirements for ethylene ripening systems/chambers, handling conditions, sources of ethylene gas, protocols for application, post-treatment operations, and safety guidelines.

Consumers noticing the use of calcium carbide or other improper ripening agents for artificial fruit ripening should report these practices to the State Commissioners of Food Safety. The details of the Commissioners of Food Safety of all States/UTs are available [here](https://www.fssai.gov.in/cms/commissioners-of-food-safety.php).

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