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DAILY NEWS ANALYSIS

GS-II :
  • 31 January, 2020

  • 3 Min Read

Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)

Syllabus subtopic: Statutory, Regulatory and various Quasi-judicial Bodies.

Prelims and Mains focus: about the issue of using chemicals in fruits and vegetables; about FSSAI

News: The Delhi High Court has observed that use of pesticides and chemicals to ripen fruits amounts to poisoning the consumer, while noting that invoking penal provisions against the culprits would have a deterrent effect.

Background

  • Apart from the petition initiated by the court on its own, the High Court was also hearing two other pleas by private individuals seeking directions to the authorities to curb the use of pesticides and other chemicals on food products, especially the agricultural produce, coming into the national capital.

  • Due to excessive usage of pesticides in fruits and vegetable, various countries have banned the import of Indian vegetables and fruits and many more were under scrutiny.

Directions by the court

  • The High Court asked the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India [FSSAI] if calcium carbide was still being used to ripen fruits, like mangoes and sought the presence of its Chief Executive Officer to assist it on the next date of hearing.

  • It also asked the Ministry of Agriculture if any kit was available for consumers to test for calcium carbide at home. The Ministry replied that no such kit was available as the presence of calcium carbide can only be tested in laboratories with the help of proper equipment and additional chemicals.

Ripening agents used in fruits and vegetables

Ripening is a process in fruits that causes them to become more palatable. In general, fruit becomes sweeter, less green (typically "redder"), and softer as it ripens. Even though the acidity of fruit increases as it ripens, the higher acidity level does not make the fruit seem tarter.

  • Ripening agents speed up the ripening process. They allow many fruits to be picked prior to full ripening, which is useful, since ripened fruits do not ship well. For example, bananas are picked when green and artificially ripened after shipment by being gassed with ethylene.

  • Ethylene glycol, a compound made up of ethylene gas and hydrogen peroxide, costs anywhere from $15 to $19 in the U.S. Unfortunately, there is evidence that when ingested, the compound is poisonous, and eating the compound can cause kidney failure.

  • Calcium carbide is also used in some countries for artificially ripening fruit. When calcium carbide comes in contact with moisture, it produces acetylene gas, which is quite similar in its effects to the natural ripening agent, ethylene. Acetylene acts like ethylene and accelerates the ripening process. Industrial-grade calcium carbide may also contain traces of arsenic and phosphorus which makes it a human health concern. The use of this chemical for this purpose is illegal in most countries.

About Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI)

  • It is an autonomous body established under the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, Government of India.

  • It has been established under the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 which is a consolidating statute related to food safety and regulation in India.

  • FSSAI is responsible for protecting and promoting public health through the regulation and supervision of food safety.

  • The FSSAI is headed by a non-executive Chairperson, appointed by the Central Government, either holding or has held the position of not below the rank of Secretary to the Government of India.

  • The FSSAI has its headquarters at New Delhi. The authority also has 6 regional offices located in Delhi, Guwahati, Mumbai, Kolkata, Cochin, and Chennai.

Source: The Hindu


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