– Govt. agencies unable to say who responsible for monitoring
Sunday was another hectic day at the La Penitence Market. Sellers lined both sides of Saffon Street anxiously waiting to trade with shoppers.
Behind the usual flurry of activities there is a practice that some sellers refuse to speak openly about, expressing fear about the possible loss of sales.
There are concerns that more and more local farmers are relying on ripening agents for fruits and vegetables being sold at local markets.
However, officials contacted by Kaieteur News claim to be unaware of the growing popularity surrounding the use of such agents. Even more troubling, Government agencies are conflicted about who should be monitoring and investigating its use.
While ripening is a natural process, artificial ripening agents are used to speed up the process by which fruits and vegetables become sweet, colored, soft, and palatable.
This means, the fruit gets to the market sooner and increases the possibility of sales.
Research indicates that calcium carbide is the most popular agent used in some cases for artificially ripening. According to experts, 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.
Other agents which could be used are ethylene glycol and ethephon.
Dr. Oudho Homenauth Chief Executive Officer of the National Agricultural Research and Extension Institute (NAREI) said that he is not aware of any imports of ripening agents.
“I am aware that fruits ripen naturally. Further, the placement of ripe fruit close to an unripe one can cause ripening. Ripening fruits produce ethylene gas which is a ripening agent which promotes the ripening of unripe fruits,” Dr. Homenauth stated.
He promised to investigate the matter and further stated that this will have to be confirmed by the Pesticides and Toxic Chemical Control Board (PTCCB).
Contacted again a few days after, Dr. Homenauth maintained his original response to information shared with him.
“From my standpoint I would not support the use of ripening agents,” the NAREI CEO pointed out.
City vendors who spoke with Kaieteur News shared knowledge of its use locally. In some cases, they stated that some ripening agents ‘caused their skin to itch’.
“I can tell when a vendor has used some chemical because you see banana turning ripe within hours,” one woman selling at Bourda Market stated.
The potential health hazards related to the ripening agents, artificial fruit ripening process is quickly becoming a worldwide issue with some researchers indicating that the products are known to cause cancer and also causes food poisoning, gastric irritation and mouth ulcers.
Many countries have specific laws and regulations regarding the usage of these substances.
When contacted, Trecia David, Registrar at the PTCCB said that queries regarding the use of fruit ripening agents should be directed to the Government Analyst Food and Drug Department (GAFDD).
But when contacted, GAFDD Director Marlan Cole said that the agency is largely responsible for processed foods and that queries should really be directed to the PTCCB which should be monitoring the use of pesticides and chemicals that enter the country.
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