Mango (Mangiferaindica L.) is the most popular fruit in the world, because to its superb flavor,
exquisite taste, and high nutritional value. In the subcontinent, it is also the most popular. Mango has risen to the top of the list of fruit crops grown in Bangladesh, accounting for 2.2 percent of total production. Because mango is such a popular fruit all over the world, its shelf life is critical in terms of processing, long-distance transportation, and marketing. Several approaches, such as edible coating, controlled atmosphere (CA) storage, and ethanol application, can be used to enhance the shelf life of mango.
In Bangladesh, there is a rumor that formalin is being used to extend the shelf life of fruits and
vegetables. In different news it has been claimed that fruits and vegetables, especially seasonal fruits are claimed to be contaminated with formalin. Each year a huge number of seasonal fruits are destroyed and wasted due to the formalin contamination rumor selectively in mangoes. These rumors spread in the society and people become anxious about consuming seasonal fruits as formalin has different health hazard issues. Such as watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation in short term exposure. In case of long-term exposures there is a probability to diagnosed with different cancers.
Formalin is a colorless gas in room temperature that is marketed as formalin in the form of
aqueous solutions comprising 37 percent H-CHO (w/w) (formaldehyde) and 10 percent -12 percent methanol to prevent oxidation and polymerization. Formalin can be used in a variety of sectors to prevent spoiling caused by microbial contamination. Formalin works with the primary proteins present in sell wall, trapped the water available for the microbial growth and chemical reactions. For this reason, different animal specimens rich in protein content are preserved days after days exactly looking the same.
That’s why Formalin has strong evidence to protect fish and other seafood from diseases by
causing protein crosslinking and producing a rubbery texture that is difficult for bacteria and
other spoilage organisms to breakdown. Formalin Contamination has been found in meat preservations too. In India and Sri Lanka there are several evidences of formalin contamination in fishes in the coastal area. In some countries, formalin is used as a food ingredient in the preparation of seafood, such as herring and caviar.
Only proteinous compounds are protected against deterioration by formalin, according to its
chemistry. Treatment of fresh fruits and vegetables with formalin may not be successful in
increasing the shelf-life because most fruits and vegetables are deficient in protein. Fruits and vegetables Contain around 0.03 percent protein in average. As a result, formalin has a strong tendency to become stable when it reacts with other substances. If no protein is present to react with, formalin will take CO2 from the air and become stable by producing another molecule. Despite the lack of scientific evidence that formalin extends the shelf life and improves the quality of fresh fruits and vegetables, regulatory bodies in Bangladesh have used mobile courts to seize and destroy large quantities of seasonal fruits and vegetables, claiming that they are contaminated with formalin.
Considering these consequences, in recent years several research has been conducted and proof has been established regarding this misconception. A bunch of researchers used different concentration of formalin solution on different samples of seasonal fruits and vegetables, especially mangoes. Formalin were either sprayed or the fruits were dipped in to the solutions to form a coating in the outside of fruits. The overall results of this experiments, it is concluded that formalin at any concentration and in mode of application had no effect in increasing the post- harvest shelf life of mango used in this study. This finding is the opposite of the general perception of people of using formalin in extending shelf life of fruits and vegetables. Usually the shelf-life of mango is around seven days depending on storage conditions. Even, fresh mangoes are available in marketing channel with a range of five to seven days. However, further research with longer storage can be suggested to evaluate the physico-chemical changes in mango with formalin treatment. Finally, it is expected that the study will bring confidence of mango producers, traders and consumers against unscientific hearsay of contaminating mango with formalin to extend shelf-life and improve quality. Beside this, it is also found that most of the farmers in our country are illiterate, they don’t have any knowledge about formalin. They use several chemicals in their agricultural products and claims that those are formalin but in reality, it’s not. Most importantly, fruits and vegetables contain naturally a small amount of formaldehyde (which is safe for health), detected as formalin in formalin testing kit during the mobile court investigation and a huge quantity of fruits are destroyed. It is a misconception too. Every year several tons of mangoes are dumped and smashed claiming they are formalin contaminated. Which causes a huge economical loss for the seller as well as the country.
So as a responsible citizen of the country, we should be concerned about what is happening
around us. We should rise our voice against such misconceptions to minimize the agricultural
loss as well as the wastage of agricultural products too. On the other hand, Government should take some stapes to against spreading rumors and make the farmers and sellers educated about the limits, safe percentage, application time and perfect consumption time of chemically treated safe fruits. The consumers also be aware of the rumors and they should judge about the claims. Though Bangladesh Food Safety Authority and FAO are working regarding these issues throw social media and different training and campaigns. Legal steps should be established to stop the rumors and before taking the steps investigation should be done scientifically to judge the rumor. It also our duty to learn the correct concepts and spread the positivity. As social media has a great influence in now-a-days in our life. It could be the influential media both for an individual and government to change people’s perceptions.
Writer – Syeeda Shiraj-Um-Monira, Lecturer, DIU
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