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Tasty mango test missing, health at risk
Officials cite staff shortage

Enjoy mango delicacy but at your own risk.

Without any government check on mangoes hitting the market, the traders have started indiscriminate use of calcium carbide and other chemicals to attract customers.

Ashish Kumar, designated officer (headquarters), food safety wing, health department, said: “There are only 14 food safety officials in the whole state. What do you expect from them? Forget mangoes, we cannot carry out normal investigation to check quality of food products properly,” said Ashish.

The senior official added: “Moreover, traders use chemical more on bananas than mangoes for quick ripening of the fruit. So I don’t think there is any need to carry out any drive to check mango quality.”

However, asked whether any drive had been initiated to check the banana quality, Ashish said in negative.

The customers, however, were not happy to know that the state government’s food safety wing was not going to check the quality of mangoes available in the market.

“The officials of the food safety wing are supposed to check the quality of mangoes and if they are not doing this then they are shirking their responsibilities,” said Veena Singh of Kadamkuan.

Munna, a mango seller near Anta Ghat, said: “Calcium carbide generates maximum artificial heat which helps ripen the mangoes within 25-26 hours. Calcium carbide can be used on only those mangoes, which are 30-40 per cent ripe. We use it because it helps ripen mangoes in one go while all mangoes would not ripe together, if natural process is followed.”

The reason that Munna came up is quite interesting also. “Calcium carbide is cheap. It is available at a rate something between Rs 60 and 70 per kg. We need just 10gm for 10-12kg of mangoes.”

When this correspondent asked how they use it, Munna said: “At first, calcium carbide has to be crushed and kept in a piece of muslin cloth. The packet of calcium carbide has to be kept in the basket of mangoes for 25-26 hours. In case calcium carbide is not used in the right proportion, it would damage all mangoes instead of ripening them.”

Shailendra Kumar, seen picking up mangoes in a market, said: “We don’t know whether these luscious fruits are chemical-laced or not. I am a mango lover since my childhood. It would have been nice if the government intervened into the monitoring factor to check whether calcium carbide is used to ripen the mangoes or not.”

On the other hand, Ashish of the food safety wing attributed one of the reasons of not checking the mango quality to the infrastructure problems at Combined Food and Drug Testing Laboratory, Kadamkuan, the lone state-run laboratory.

Sources said the food safety wing is already facing major crisis.

It does not have food analyst at its Combined Food and Drug Testing Laboratory because of which samples are sent to Mineral Area Development Authority (Mada), Dhanbad.

The Dhanbad laboratory takes 15-20 days to send the test report while according to the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006, the report should be sent to the authority concerned within 14 days of the receiving of the sample so that the authorities concerned can take action but this norm is hardly being followed.

The Agamkuan lab also does not have a director and a deputy director for many years.

Many posts like that of assistant director, public analyst and assistant public analyst are lying vacant.

The health department’s food safety wing has also miserably failed to keep a tab on eateries, which are still flouting the hygiene norms in the absence of proper checks.

At present, there are only four technicians in the laboratory because of which carrying out regular food testing has become a difficult task for the food safety wing.