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After carbide, fruit traders turn to ‘China powder’

15,June, 2016

State still languishing without enough food inspectors to check adulteration

HYDERABAD: Despite the Hyderabad high court’s intervention in the matter, fresh, unadulterated fruits and vegetables are still out of reach for the common people in the city. Be it due to the lack of food safety inspectors or the novel ways introduced by traders to ripen fruits, what’s flooding the market still is harmful chemical-laced food.

In fact, the high court came down heavily on the nonchalant way in which the staff of the two states are responding to the challenge posed by unscrupulous traders. This prompted the Telangana government’s special counsel, A Sanjeev Kumar, to reveal that traders have begun using a new chemical called China powder to ripen fruits.

Following this claim made in the court, food safety experts are now questioning the source of the powder and its chemical composition. "We have heard of such chemicals, but they were not prominently used earlier as they were costlier than calcium carbide. While calcium carbide is known to be toxic, there is no substantial proof to suggest that this powder is safe," said a senior official from the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on the condition of anonymity.

Experts from the city too said there must be a thorough investigation to find what goes into China powder. "China powder comes with labelling that specifies that it could contain ethylene. While its use is permitted by the Supreme Court, there is no proper mention about the concentration of ethylene in these packets," said V Sudershan Rao, a food safety expert at the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN).

Even as the flow of adulterated food on to our table continues, the state still lacks proper mechanism to curb the menace in the city. According to the M Prasada Rao committee recommendations on rationalisation of staffing patterns in the GHMC, a city as expansive as Hyderabad requires as many as 25 food inspectors and more people to lift samples at the circle level.

"As a first step to curb adulteration, we must have more food inspectors to lift samples. While the requirement is of 25 inspectors, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation has no more than four," said a senior official from the Nutrition Society of India.

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