Raids show K’taka units processing ginger with sulphur, calcium hypochlorite
Ginger, an aromatic spice with wide-ranging culinary use, is reportedly being processed using chemicals like calcium hypochlorite and sulphur in some parts of the country.
Raids conducted recently on ginger processing units in Ayanur and Ripponpet areas of Shimoga district of Karnataka were found using chemicals in order to give the spice a yellowish tint and erase the dark spots on it. This is done to make the ginger rootstock attractive and command good prices.
With regard to the raids, C R Srinivasa Gowda, joint director, State Public Health Institute, Bangalore, explained, “We had received consumer complaints earlier. Some of our officers were suspecting bleaching agents being used in ginger processing units. Later, our district food safety officers (designated officers) went on to inspect ginger processing units in Ayanur and Ripponpet in Shimoga district. The whole vegetable, ginger was whitened using bleaching agents like calcium hypochlorite and sulphur.”
Gowda added, “We have seized sulphur and bleaching agents from the units. Our designated officers are on a search of processing units to ensure safe processing of ginger.” The quantity of seized sulphur was 100 kg.
He pointed out, “Three samples of the processed ginger from the processing units are sent to Bengaluru-based laboratory for tests. The results are expected to arrive in a month.”
Further, Gowda stated, “If the results are positive and usage of aforementioned chemicals in ginger processing is proved then an all-state inspection regime will be conducted to wipe out the usage of chemicals to attain appealing colour to the processed ginger.”
The designated officers have been asked to conduct regular checks at the units to unearth such malpractices since ginger cultivation doubled in the area in the past seven years.
It may be noted that many consumers in Shimoga district are facing issues regarding breathing and some have reportedly developed allergies. The usage of sulphur in processing is said to have contaminated the nearby water bodies making the situation worse. Following this, people in the vicinity lodged a complaint with the department of health and family welfare. Based on the complaint, designated officers conducted raids.
A source close to department of health and family welfare, stated, “One of the possible reasons for using chemicals is discoloured ginger in the market fetches low prices. Harmful chemicals like calcium hypochlorite are used in the processing to cease discolouring, ripening and rotting of ginger.”