ISLAMABAD - While the Islamabad Capital Territory Administration is so proactive on social media and sharing its daily actions taken for welfare of community, the fruit vendors are selling artificially-ripened fruits in the city markets with impunity.

Fruit sellers are posing health risk to people’s lives by selling chemically-ripened fruits in the city without knowing its repercussions, the consumers blamed.

“The use of different chemicals to ripen the fruits may accelerate the fruits sales or boost the businesses but it is death being sold by the shopkeepers,” Ahmed Hassan, a consumer shopping at Aabpara Market said. He urged Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration to keep check on quality of fruits being sold in the markets and rectify the situation on war footing in order to provide better quality fruits.

Umar Khan purchasing fruits in Peshawer Morr Bazaar said that the outer skin of fruits ripened through illegal means may attract the customer but in fact it carried high acidity and low sugar content.

The poorly developed flavour is hazardous as it may contain traces of arsenic and phosphorus hydride, he added.

Babar Saleem, a farmer revealing the methods of artificial ripening said that fruits were being matured through commercial methods like calcium carbide wrapped in a cloth or paper placed at the bottom of the basket. In order to increase the basket temperature and maintain humidity, the basket is covered with strong craft paper, he explained.

Saleem said that in developed countries, fruits are commercially ripened in an artificial chamber having no health hazards, but in Pakistan, the departments are not providing any facility to the farmers in this regard.

The use of ethylene for this purpose is not harmful for human consumption but these compounds are expensive while calcium carbide in the country is available at cheap rates, he said.

Rana Munir, a fruit trader at I-11 fruit market said that the commercial ripening was an essential part of their business. “We pick raw fruits and use certain methods to increase their shelf life”, he said. He said that acetylene gas was an analogue of ethylene that accelerated the ripening process.

Dr Waseem Khawaja from Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences said that early symptoms of the arsenic and phosphorus poisoning included vomiting, diarrhoea with or without blood, burning sensation in the chest and abdomen, thirst, weakness and difficulty in swallowing and speaking. He said that other harmful effects of chemical food included shivering of the legs and hands, cold and damp skin and low blood pressure, and can become fatal if not treated in time.

Dr Amjad, a nutritionist at the National Institute of Health, recommended better techniques for artificial ripening of fruits and vegetables to prevent direct contact of the substance with fruits.