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These foods are contaminated with toxic and health hazardous chemicals

Fruits and vegetables are highly nutritious and key food products for the human consumption. But, due to their low shelf life, they are highly perishable. These food commodities are reported to be contaminated with toxic and health hazardous chemicals to make their lives longer and healthy

Pix for representational purposes only

The next time, before you eat your favourite sarson da saag or fried bharwa bhindi, just be aware and careful of the fact that these simple fruits and vegetables, which we all have been eating since ages, can leave adverse effects on our nervous system!!

Fruits and vegetables are highly nutritious and key food products for the human consumption. But, due to their low shelf life, they are highly perishable. These food commodities are reported to be contaminated with toxic and health hazardous chemicals to make their lives longer and healthy.

Chemicals like calcium carbide/ethephon and oxytocin are reportedly being used in fruit and vegetable mandis/farms for artificial ripening of fruits and for increasing the size of fruits and vegetables, respectively. Calcium carbide, more commonly known as ‘masala’, is a carcinogenic agent and banned under PFA Rules,1955. Ethephon is a pesticide, and so it is not recommended as a ripening enhancer. Oxytocin is a mammalian hormone, used as a drug in veterinary services, which is not advised for use in fresh fruits and vegetables.

Many instances have been reported that some unscrupulous elements are following the practice of dipping green vegetables in artificial colours to give them a fresh, attractive and pleasant appearance. The PFA (Prevention of Food Adulteration Act) strictly prohibits use of colours in fruits and vegetables.

The shocking evidence show that these crooks use silicon spray to make rotten vegetables and fruits look fresh and shining. As per rule 48-E of the PFA Rules, 1955, fresh fruits and vegetables shall be free from coating of waxes, mineral oils and colours. But, we can see wax coated, shining apples and various other fruits in similar condition with vendors.

Pesticide residues, crop contaminants (aflatoxins, patulin, ochratoxin, etc.), naturally occurring toxic substances and heavy metals are the major contaminants found in fruits and vegetables. Pesticides are used in management of pests and diseases in Agricultural and Horticultural crops. Heavy metals are present in the irrigation water and other manures. Infested seeds, irrigation water and soil act as the source of the fungal toxins.

Pesticides can leave adverse effects on the nervous system. Some harmful pesticides can cause several hazardous diseases like cancer, liver, kidney, and lung damage. Certain pesticides can also cause loss of weight and appetite, irritability, insomnia, behavioural disorder and dermatological problems. The pesticide residue found in fruits and vegetables include residues of both banned (Aldrin, Chlordane, Endrin, Heptachlor, Ethyl Paration, etc.) and restricted pesticides for use in India (DDT, Endosulfan, etc.). Heavy metals also cause adverse effect in human metabolic system, skin diseases, heart problems, etc.

A farmer in Ludhiana, who has been using oxytocin to his crops, when asked about the reason, told that he was frustrated that the agricultural experts whom he consulted about the fluctuated temperature could not explain why his crops became fruitless and barren. Therefore, farmers in India are resorting to this malpractice due to weather patterns, aside from the increase in profit on their part.

Nutritionists and health experts are alarmed with the new advent of farming employed by Indian farmers. As per a senior doctor, any fruits and vegetables that have been grown and harvested with the help of hormones will not immediately effect on health right after consumption. Nevertheless, various ailments may occur if continuously taken for long period. The damage can be irreparable including memory loss, cardiovascular diseases, and nervous breakdown.

Not only vegetables are laced with hormones, but animals like, chicken, cattle and cows too are injected with such hormones. There are certain hormones injected in young animals, so that they can gain weight faster. It helps the meat and dairy industries to make more profit because of the reduced waiting time for an animal to be slaughtered and sold in the market. Not only that the amounts of feeds are lessened, but hormones can also increase milk production.

The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has been created for laying down science based standards for articles of food and to regulate their manufacture, storage, distribution, sale and import to ensure availability of safe and wholesome food for human consumption.

Despite the ban implemented by the government to use any hormone growth to speed up the process of growth among vegetables and poultry animals and cattle, it seems useless because farmers can still purchase hormone in drug stores or in any fertilizer and pesticide market, particularly in India. Hence, it is the best option to be a wise consumer and learn more on the food we are eating on our dining table.

Organic products are always recommended by health and nutrition experts. Although it is the most ideal, not all consumers have the access or budget to afford organic vegetables, fruits, and poultry products. Just do not be lured to visually appealing produce. Most common vegetables injected with hormones are melons, pumpkin, gourds and cucumber to make it bigger, fresher, and more attractive to the consumers.

Buying dairy products and hormone-free meat can be very expensive. If one can change to vegetarian lifestyle, well and good. Nevertheless, when meat cannot be avoided in meal, eat the leanest part (less liver and fat), and eat meats in moderation. Dominate the plate with 80 per cent vegetables or rich in fibre food and only small portion of lean meat is recommended.
Moreover, following simple methods can be taken care of while using vegetables:
-Select fruits and vegetables without spots or lesions and any abnormality.
-Wash fruits and vegetables thoroughly with preferably drinkable running water before eating and cooking.
– Purchase fruits and vegetables from known dealers.
– Peeling of fruits before consumption and vegetables before cooking will reduce exposure to pesticides.
– Do not buy and consume cut fruits from open market.
– Throw away fruits and vegetables infected by mould/fungus.
-To minimize the hazards of pesticide residues, discard the outer leaves of leafy vegetables such as lettuce and cabbage.
-Do not wash fruits and vegetables with detergents as they may get absorbed inside.
– Ensure the quality of fruits and vegetables by sending them to voluntary testing laboratories.
-Wash your hands with soap and filtered water, use clean utensil and clean cutting board with stainless steel knives.

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