GUWAHATI, June 22 - The North Eastern Small Scale Industries Association (NESSIA) has demanded of the State government to ban the sale of loose calcium carbide (CaC2) in the open market in view of the health hazard posed by it as a ripening agent.
“We urge the government to impose a ban on the sale of loose calcium carbide in the open market so that the unauthorised persons who are using the chemical to ripen fruits quickly, creating a health hazard in the process, can be restrained. Further, calcium carbide is an inflammable substance under the Inflammable Substances Act, 1982,” NESSIA State president Sailen Baruah told The Assam Tribune.
Calcium carbide is dangerous if not kept dry, and contact with moisture can result in a highly inflammable gas, acetylene. Calcium carbide is readily available in loose shape in most of the hardware stores for cutting, patching and welding of steel with the help of oxygen gas for repair of motor vehicles at garages and workshops.
The NESSIA also welcomed the PIL filed at the Gauhati High Court by advocate Bhaskar Baruah against the use of calcium carbide to artificially ripen fruits which has harmful effects on the human body.
“The easy availability of calcium carbide in the open market has helped unscrupulous retailers and whole-sellers to use the harmful chemicals for ripening banana, mango and other fruits. Calcium carbide contains arsenic and phosphorous, which can cause cancer and other serious diseases,” Baruah said.
The Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restriction on Sales) Regulation-2011 issued by the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) bans sale of fruits ripened with calcium carbide or acetylene gas (C2H2) and use of these chemicals in vegetables, fruits, meat, fish and milk.
“The relevant laws and rules have been rampantly violated by dishonest traders, leading to a serious health hazard. This should be checked by the food safety authorities,” Baruah said.
Welcoming the drive of the government authorities against such adulterated foodstuff in the wake of widespread media reports, the NESSIA said that such crackdowns need to be made a regular feature.
“Now, after widespread media reports and interventions by the courts, the authorities have launched a crackdown, but it needs to be sustained to be really meaningful. NESSIA welcomes the government officials and the State Health Minister for initiating the move to control unhygienic food products. Regular drives apart, strict action must be taken against the culprits in order to ensure lasting results,” Baruah said.
The NESSIA also appealed to the citizens to be more careful while purchasing food items.
“In Assam and the North East as a whole, members of the public are not serious over food safety. The departments concerned are also not doing their duty on their own. We suggest that an advisory committee be constituted with industry associations as members to tackle the food safety problems faced by the public,” Baruah said.