Sulphur and calcium hypochlorite, also known as bleaching powder, are used to enhance brightness
The indiscriminate use of chemicals for processing ginger is posing a threat to the health of people in the district and to those residing in the vicinity of the processing units.
Sulphur and calcium hypochlorite, also known as bleaching powder, is used for processing the ginger in the district. According to Food Safety Act, the usage of the chemicals is an offence. Exposure to these chemicals is causing breathing problems and skin allergy among residents in the vicinity of the processing units.
Ten-year-old Mohammed Kutti of Ripponpet village suffered from intense nosebleed and respiratory problems owing to exposure to the chemicals from the units near his house. Five students from the Government Higher Primary School in the village complained of similar problems.
District Health Officer Rajesh Suragihalli told The Hindu that in the wake of complaints of health problems from residents, samples from two processing units located near residential areas in Ripponpet were sent to lab for tests in the last week of February.
Traces of sulphur and calcium hypochlorite were found in the samples. Based on the report, the department had directed the police to shut down the two units, he said.
Many students of Government Higher Primary Schools in Gullekoppa and Kalikapura villages of Hosanagar taluk experienced similar health disorders.
Dakappa, member of the School Development and Monitoring Committee of the school in Gullekoppa, said a complaint had been lodged with the Block Education Officer and Tahsildar of Hosanagar on March 15 against these processing units.
Under traditional method of processing, farmers and traders wash the ginger tubers in water and the rhizomes were peeled with bamboo knives or coir. Ginger which becomes discoloured owing to bacterial or fungal wilt infection fetch low price.
To give it a bright and attractive colour and to avoid ripening and rotting, harmful chemicals were being used for processing.
The tubers are treated with calcium hypochlorite solution and are placed in air-tight chambers by burning sulphur.
Sulphur dioxide gas released in the chamber removes the dark spots on the ginger tubers and and gives it a bright colour.
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India had booked cases against owners of three ginger processing units in Ripponpet and one unit in Ayanur last year for using harmful chemicals. In 2015, the Shikaripur Town Municipal Council had shut down three processing units for releasing liquid waste containing sulphur to Kerekatte tank in the town.