Unhygienic packing of sugar-coated dry fruits a new hazard in Kashmir

Unhygienic packing of sugar-coated dry fruits a new hazard in Kashmir

Srinagar: With the wedding season picking up in Kashmir, sales of dry fruits are, as expected, on a high.
However, traders are packing the fruits in gunny sacks, which experts say, is hazardous for the sugar-coated dry fruits.
A survey of different markets shows dried fruits like pineapple, kiwi, orange, and raisins on sale everywhere. However, there is no quality check even as the items are sold in large quantity.
“These fruits are sold like hot cakes these days as wedding season is at the peak. Our weddings and related occasions are incomplete without the traditional offerings of dry fruits. But the improper packaging and preservation make them dangerous for our health. It can lead to food poisoning and other diseases,” said a Food Safety officer, wishing anonymity.
Officials in the Food Safety Department and doctors have warned against the use of unhygienic and sugar coated dried fruits packed under unhygienic conditions.
“If there is no proper packaging the fruit is not safe to eat,” said Hilal Ahmad Mir, Assistant Commissioner Food Safety, Srinagar.
He said the Food department will launch a special drive soon to check the illegal trade in the name of wedding items.
“Dry fruits if preserved in an unscientific way can lead to serious health issues,” he said
Mir said that people should approach the department with complaints regarding violation of any sort.
“Consumers should inform us immediately about the sale of unhygienic dry fruits. I assure them the department will take strict action,” he said.
Public Health expert, Dr M Salim Khan said if the fruits are stored in a safe way then there is no harm in eating them.
“The dry fruits coated in sugar and other preservatives can attract microbes if not packed properly. We can’t see them with the naked eye so people have to be very careful,” he said.
Dr Khan, who is heading the Department of Community Medicine at Government Medical College (GMC) Srinagar, said the improper storage of dried fruits leads to growth of fungus.
“Fungus can grow on the food and turn it carcinogenic. So we must avoid unhygienic fruits,” he said.
Food Safety and Standard Act (FSSA) lays down packaging and labelling requirements as per the safety requirement.
As per the FSSA guidelines, dried fruits are prone to contamination if they come in contact with moisture so proper packaging protocols need to be followed to ensure food safety.
Food grade packaging is important as dried fruits come in direct contact with the packaging.
“Packaging must be safe and not cause chemical contamination. They must be able to keep moisture out of the packaging”
Food Business Operators (FBOs) also need to keep in mind that certain dried fruits and nuts especially peanuts can cause allergic reactions. Therefore, it is important to mention all the contents in a packet that contains mixed dried fruit.
Besides, use by dates ought to be specified on the packaging.