Officials seize 100 kg sulphur cubes, 10 kg calcium hypochlorite from processing units
Indiscriminate application of harmful chemicals to brighten the colour of ginger came to light during a raid by the officials of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) on ginger processing units in the district on Saturday.
The officials raided four units in the district on Saturday, including three units at Ripponpet and one at Ayanur village. During the raid, the officials were shocked to see that sulphur and calcium hypochlorite, also known as bleaching powder, being extensively used in the processing of ginger.
The officials seized 100 kg sulphur cube and 10 kg calcium hypochlorite from the processing units. K. Krishnappa, District Food Safety Officer, told The Hindu that according to Food Safety Act, usage of sulphur and calcium hypochlorite for processing food is an offence.
Samples of ginger from the units had been sent to laboratory for tests. If the tests were to confirm the presence of traces of chemicals in the samples, then stern action would be initiated against the owners of the processing units.
The area of cultivation of ginger has expanded rapidly across the district. The total area under ginger cultivation stood at 2,000 acres in 2008 and it had increased to 16,000 acre,s now.
Under traditional methods of processing, ginger tubers are soaked in water and the rhizomes on it will be peeled off with the help of bamboo knives, coir or sea shells. As the ginger gets discoloured due to bacterial and fungal wilt infection, it used to fetch low prices in the market. To prevent discolouring, ripening and rotting in ginger, harmful chemicals like sulphur and calcium hypochlorite were being used during processing.
After washing the tubers with a solution mixed with calcium hypochlorite, they were placed in air-tight chambers by burning sulphur. The Sulphur dioxide gas released in the chamber removes the dark spots and gives bright color to the ginger.
The people residing in the vicinity of ginger processing units in Ayanur village had recently developed breathing problems and allergy. They had lodged a complaint with the Department of Health and Family Welfare, blaming the usage of sulphur in ginger processing unit as the reason for their health disorders. Based on the information provided by the officials of the Department of Health and Family Welfare, the FSSAI officials raided the units.The usage of chemicals in the processing of ginger ha also caused pollution in water bodies that were in the vicinity of ginger processing units. Last year, toxic foam had frothed from Kerekatte tank on the outskirts of Shikaripur owing to the release of liquid waste from the ginger processing units.
Following this incident, the Shikaripur Town Municipal Council had shutdown three ginger processing units0 that were responsible for polluting the tank.
Pesticides are used indiscriminately even during ginger cultivation. A study by the experts from the Centre for Ecological Sciences of Indian Institute of Science and Vrikshalaksha Andolan had revealed that the land in Malnad region was becoming barren and water bodies, including Tunga, Bhadra and Varada rivers, getting polluted owing to excessive usage of pesticides in the cultivation of ginger.
According to Food Safety Act, usage of sulphur and calcium hypochlorite in food processing process is an offence.
K. Krishnappa,, District Food Safety Officer