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FSSAI permits FBOs to use ethephon for artificial ripening of fruits

FSSAI permits FBOs to use ethephon for artificial ripening of fruits2018.08.23

FSSAI  has  clarified  that  food  business  operators  (FBOs)  can  use  ethephon  as  a  source  of ethylene gas for artificial ripening of fruits. In addition to this, the country’s apex food regulator has  also  issued  a  detailed  guidance  note  for  traders  on  artificial  ripening  of  fruits.

Lately, it had come to FSSAI’s notice that stakeholders were not abiding by the provision to use ethylene gas. Several issues have been raised relating to the modalities of using ethylene gas to ripen  fruits.

The  regulator has been actively considering an alternate  to  calcium carbide  use  for ripening process. Traders, in order to avoid spoilage during transportation, harvest raw fruits and ripen them  before  sale.

Further,  FSSAI  received  several  representation  on  whether  ethephon  can  be used  to  ripen fruits. After taking due consideration, FSSAI clarified ethephon in powder form could be used, provided that it is packed in sachets, and these sachets do not come in direct contact with the fruit.

 

Guidance note on artificial ripening

After issuing guidance notes on spices, eggs and formalin in fish, the regulator has now come up with  a  guidance  note  on  artificial  ripening  to  create  awareness  among  all  the  concerned stakeholders related to the different aspects of artificial ripening of fruits. It includes standard operating procedures (SOPs) detailing all facets using ethylene gas and its reliable source.

The  guidance  note  provided  the  consumers  some  key  takeaway  points  to  keep  in  mind  for ethylene gas. Ethylene, being a hormone produced naturally within the fruits to stimulate the ripening process, does not pose any health hazard to consumers.

It can be used for ripening at a concentration up to 100 parts per million (ppm) (100ul/L). The use of carbide gas or acetylene gas is not permitted for artificial ripening under the Food Safety and Standards Regulations, 2011, due to the potential health hazards. The source of ethlyene gas should not come in direct contact with fruits.

Besides,  the  note  issued  by  the  FSSAI  provided  SOP  details  like  the  requirement  for  the ethylene ripening system and the chamber should be an air-tight room with a temperature and humidity  regulation  system,  suggested  handling  conditions  for  stacking  of  fruits  and  air circulation.  Fruits  should  not  occupy  more  than  75  per  cent  of  the  volume  of  the  chamber during the treatment.

 

Requirement of exposure time and ripening temperature for different fruits

FSSAI permits FBOs to use ethephon for artificial ripening of fruits

It is pertinent to mention here that considering the issue of the rampant use of banned calcium carbide and the non-availability of alternative ripening agent, FSSAI, via a notification in 2016, permitted the use of ethylene gas for ripening of fruits. It permitted the use of ethylene gas at 100ppm (100ul/L) depending upon the crop, variety and maturity for artificial ripening of fruits.As  per  the  provisions  of  the  Food  Safety  and  Standards  Act,  2006,  artificial  ripening  by acetylene  gas  (known  as  carbide)  is  prohibited  under  the  Food  Safety  and  Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations, 2011, as it contains traces of arsenic and phosphorus, which is harmful for humans, and thus, banned in India. 

As  per  the  regulator,  the  guidance  note  also  cautioned  traders,  as  ethylene  gas  was  highly inflammable.  Concentrations  above  27,000ppm  are  explosive,  hence  smoking  is  prohibited around the premises. Consumers should avoid fruits with black blotches on the skin, as there are chances that these fruits are being ripened by acetylene gas.

As for the food safety officials, they are directed to monitored the illegal use of calcium carbide in mandis and markets and check the labels at source for the composition, the name of the manufacturer, the instructions for use, etc.

Taking a positive note, Prerna Gupta, assistant professor, food technology and nutrition, Lovely Professional University, said, “Ethephon is being used as a source for artificial ripening in plants. Earlier its use was limited to various cereal products, mainly wheat, tobacco, coffee, cotton and rice.”

FSSAI permits FBOs to use ethephon for artificial ripening of fruits

“In  the  United  States,  it  is  currently  registered  for  use  on  apples,  barley,  blackberries, bromeliads, cantaloupes, grapes, guava, nuts, tobacco, cotton, rye, sugarcane, wheat, walnuts, pineapples cucumbers, cherries, tomatoes, etc.,” she added.

“Ethephon is a good substitute for calcium carbide which is banned by FSSAI. In India, most of the small-scale vendors use calcium carbide and should be encouraged to use ethephon/ethrel for ripening of fruits, because these small vendors do not have access to commercial ripening facilities  like  ethylene-based  ripening  chambers  owned  by  big  traders/companies.  Thorough care has to be taken to select a proper stage of fruit for artificial ripening process,” Gupta said.

She  added,  “I  believe  that  as  we  are  shifting towards organic  farming and  look  for  more  of organic products,  in that case organic buyers might not like this idea of adding any external hormones  to  what  they  eat.”

“Being a pesticide (GUP), its use in the ripening of plants should be checked, and a limit for its use  on  plants  should  be  maintained.  Moreover,  certain  perishable  plant  products  should  be allowed  to  grow  by  natural  ripening  process,”  Gupta  said.

Sharing  his  opinion,  Khalid  Parwez,  expert,  Food  Safety  Knowledge Assimilation  Network (FSKAN), a body under FSSAI, said, “The direction and guidance note will be helpful for farmers, traders  and  consumers.”

"The  farmer  should  harvest  the  fruits  at  its  optimum  maturity.  Traders  should  use  the prescribed limit of ethylene for ripening, and consumers should buy from the authentic seller in the  market,”  he  added.

Parwez said, “Further, I would like to bring a notice to FSSAI about smart packaging, where the access  ethylene  can  be  absorbed  before  it  reaches  to  consumers.”

“Activated carbon-based scavengers  with  various metal  catalysts can also effectively remove ethylene,”  he  added.

“They have been used to scavenge ethylene from produce warehouses or are incorporated into sachets for inclusion into produce pack, and embedded into paper bags or corrugated board boxes  for  produce  storage,”  Parwez  said.

“The  activated  earth-type  minerals,  like  clays,  pumice,  zeolites,  coral,  ceramics  and  even Japanese Oya stone, can be embedded or blended into polyethylene film bags, which are then used to package as well as excess ethylene scavenging,” he added.

 

source:  FnBnews.com

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