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India: Banana ripening agent is safe

With food inspectors across many states seizing banana consignments from Maharashtra because of presence of artificial ripening agent ethephon, a chemical compound, the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) has come out in support of chemical terming it safe for human health.

In the last two weeks, banana consignments in Gujarat and many other northern states have been seized by state food inspectors for presence of artificial ripening chemicals such as calcium carbide and ethephon. The drive by states has led to disruption of supplies which pulled down banana prices in the wholesale mandis of Jalgaon district, a key destination for banana trade.

However, a top official with ICAR confirmed to FE that ethephon is safe for human consumption if used in measured quantity.

“All the ripening agents are not toxic and we have recommended use of Ethephon in the range of 100 - 200 parts per million (ppm) for bananas,” HP Singh, deputy director general (Horticulture) of ICAR, under the agriculture ministry told Fe. Singh said for catering to domestic demand the banana growers do use artificial ripening agent.

Meanwhile, due to decline in the price, the banana growers had asked ICAR to intervene so that supplies are not stopped unnecessarily by the state government officials.

“As food inspectors in many states do not distinguish between calcium carbide (which is banned as ripening agent) and ethephone, our supplies are seized which leads to drop in prices as well as demand, “ Bhagwat Vishwanath Patil, President, Banana Growers Federation of India, a Jalgaon-based organisation said.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSA) in a recent advisory to states had stated that despite prohibition in using carbide gas, the sale of fruits specially mangoes and banana ripened with banned gas is still continuing. FSSA even stated that dipping fruits in solution of Ethephon or exposure of fruits to ethylene gas is harmful.


Publication date: 7/20/2010


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