Fruits are important part of our diet. They are a great source of vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants and many other nutrients. Not only they provide us with aforementioned nutrients but are also cure a number of illnesses by boosting the immunity level of body. Due to high fiber and low calorie content of fruits they also help maintain a balanced body weight. Fiber intends to keep the person full for a longer time resulting weight loss. Several heart diseases can be prevented by consuming high-fiber fruits which lower the cholesterol and fat level of body. Fruits also act as anti-aging agent as they slow down the process of aging. Research suggests that a person may eat 1-2 servings of fruits daily.  Health benefits of some fruits are still to be discovered. Despite all these factors, food safety is something that must be kept in mind all the time.

Many tempting fruits come in summer season. Fruit stalls are adorned with mango, peach, plum and banana these days. People buy these fruits for their health benefits but they are completely unaware of the fact that they are actually buying poison for themselves. The aforementioned fruits require certain temperature to ripe but to meet the demand and for the sake of profit; farmers pick raw fruits and sell them in market. The fruit vendors then use a hazardous fruit ripening agent to speed up ripening process. It is called Calcium carbide and is known as “pattas” among fruit vendors. It is widely used to ripe fruits especially mangoes. A packet of calcium carbide is kept in fruit containers. The powdered chemical produces enough heat to ripe fruits artificially. But when this chemical comes in contact with the fruit, it can cause deadly diseases like cancer. They are clearly oblivious to the danger of its use. Use of calcium carbide is discouraged worldwide as a fruit ripening agent. Sadly this practice is still common in Pakistan though actions are being taken by relevant bodies to stop this menace. Moreover, juices extracted from such fruits are no good to health either as this chemical reaches under the skin of the fruit especially mangoes which make it unfit for human consumption.  

In order to curb this menace, Punjab Food Authority field teams visit fruit markets for inspections. They conduct on spot tests to check the presence of Calcium Carbide in fruits and discard tonnes of mangoes and peaches with positive result. Fruit containers found with packets of this chemical are also confiscated right away. Director General Punjab Food Authority Capt. (R) Muhammad Usman Younis said in an interview to a private TV channel that their department has banned the use of calcium carbide as fruit ripening agent since 2017 but fruit sellers have not taken it seriously and it’s high time now. 

There is a hue and cry among public regarding these actions by Punjab Food Authority and most people are often found quoting that Punjab food authority is wasting fruit and other foods that can fill stomach of many. However, people need to understand that wasted material was not food at all. It was poison that was supposed to reach their bellies and cost them their health. We must appreciate such steps and perform our role of responsible citizen by identifying these factors.

Ethylene is a gaseous plant hormone found in fruits naturally. This chemical is responsible for fruit ripening but its amount is very low in under ripen fruits. This gas is used to ripe fruits artificially worldwide. It is proven that this gas is not hazardous for health at all. But sadly, fruit vendors in Pakistan are not well aware of such safe scientific methods to ripe fruits. Seminars and training programs for local fruits vendors and suppliers should be held to create awareness among them about the hazards of using Calcium Carbide for human consumption.

But there is another question that arises in mind. Is it solely the responsibility of food authorities and government organizations to provide safe food? Shouldn’t citizens be vigilant too about their food? In western world, citizens are vigilant enough to speak about their rights and report any suspicious activity. But in Pakistan, people are completely ignorant of their rights and their welfare. They are suppressed by the powerful. People must be vigilant in order to completely practice their rights. They must report any activity that they find unusual, be it related to food or else. 

Menace of adulteration cannot be eliminated by the Government all alone, we the citizens have to work for it too. Together we can stop this virus from spreading any further and save the nation because healthy nations progress.