Ethylene Removal System in Fruit Cold Storages

Ethylene Control by AGRITECH for cold storage of fresh fruits like Apples, Kiwifruit etc.

The preservation of fruit and vegetables in cold storage is currently an indispensable fact, although the cold in itself does not resolve the problem of preservation.

Ethylene is a gas that is produced naturally by vegetable tissues. It acts as a vegetable hormone and principally controls the processes of ripening and senescence. Ethylene accumulates in low concentrations in areas where fruit and vegetables are preserved, and thus reduces the post harvest life of the products stored. That is why eliminating it from these areas reduces the loss of quality in the fresh produce and consequently brings financial benefits.

For ethylene removal, systems that eliminate ethylene from the air through oxidation (with ozone or potassium permanganate) catalysis or combustion are installed in the cold stores. For these technologies to be safe and efficient, they need to meet certain requirements. In general terms these are as follows:

  • The capacity to reduce ethylene concentrations to safe levels under practicable conditions.
  • They must not cause damage to the fresh produce.
  • They must not cause damage to the cold storage equipment.
  • They must be safe for staff, the consumer and the environment.

According to an article published by the University of California, Davis (*), ethylene elimination systems that consist in emitting ozone into the air in the cold stores at safe concentrations are not an efficient way to eliminate ethylene. That is because using ozone at low concentrations means that contacts with molecules of ethylene or other volatile substances are fleeting, making the process of their elimination too slow. In addition, according to the same article,

Ozone can cause damage to the vegetable tissues and to the air-conditioning equipment, since it is very corrosive.

If ozone is not directly introduced into the cold store, but air is forced through an ozone chamber, the problems of corrosion and damage to the fruit disappear. However, the low flow provided by the equipment on the market (far below the volume per hour in cold storage) impedes the fast elimination of ethylene that is needed to maintain the concentration of ethylene at safe levels.

On the other hand, the Agritech products force the air through a granulate, with a high capacity for absorbing ethylene from a flow that is equal to or higher than the cold storage volume per hour. 

This enablesrapid elimination of the ethylene being produced by the fruit and impedes its accumulation to harmful levels. It also meets the other requirements suggested above making it a safe and cost-effective system for eliminating ethylene, bacteria and other compounds.

Boosting Productivity smartly - Agritech Leads the way

For India to feed not only its own population but also other countries in the region, we need to focus on achieving higher growth in our production and streamline the supply chain. This can be achieved smartly by adopting technology in our processes, as it not only automates the way things happen but also adds speed and accuracy in farm production, food processing, logistics and distribution along the supply chain. 

Agritech has been actively working in these areas with the stakeholders to reduce cost and wastage while achieving incremental gains. These efforts are impacting businesses across the segments. The benefit of these actions can be seen and appreciated by serious businesses. Likewise, a stronger supply chain provides the basis for growers, suppliers and buyers to focus on innovations and change their approach from chasing lower prices to adding value to their customers.

Working closely with customers and suppliers, Agritech has been helping them to adopt new products and services To know how we could help with your project, please send your questions by email from our Contact Us page.

FSSAI: Harmful Chemicals Banned for use on Fruits & Vegetables


1 . Which chemicals are allowed/banned in Fresh Fruits and Vegetables? 

Fruits and vegetables are highly nutritious and form as key food commodity in the human consumption. They are highly perishable due to their low shelf life. These food commodities are reported to be contaminated with toxic and health hazardous chemicals. 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. 

Rule 44-AA of the PFA Rules, 1955 prohibits the use of carbide gas for ripening of fruits. 

Rule 44-AA : Prohibition of use of carbide gas in ripening of fruits:- No person shall sell or offer or expose for sale or have in his premises for the purpose of sale under any description, fruits which have been artificially ripened by use of acetylene gas, commonly known as carbide gas. 

Ministry of Agriculture has clarified that the fruits are exposed to ethylene gas (fruit ripening plant hormone) in low concentration of 10-100 ppm exogenously to trigger their ripening. It is considered safe in the concentration varying from 0.001- 0.01% depending upon the crop, variety and maturity. There is no specific provision in PFA for ripening agents. 

Many instances have been reported that some unscrupulous elements are following the practise of dipping green vegetables in artificial colours to give them a fresh, attractive and pleasant appearance. PFA prohibits use of colours in fruits and vegetables.

As per rule 48-E of the PFA Rules, 1955, fresh fruits and vegetables shall be free from rotting and also from coating of waxes, mineral oils and colours. However, there is provision for coating fresh fruits with food additive viz. bee wax (white/yellow) camauba wax or shellac wax as glazing agent in accordance with the Good Manufacturing Practice for use of food additives under proper label declaration as defined in sub-rule (Z2) (24) of Rule 42. 

2. What are their residue limits? 

Bee wax (white and yellow) or camauba wax or shellac wax are permitted to be used in accordance with the Good Manufacturing Practice for use of food additives. 

Since use ofcarbide gas is prohibited in ripening of fruits under PFA, no tolerance limit for its residue is permitted. 

No tolerance limit for colour and mineral oil on fruits and vegetables has been allowed. 

The Maximum Residual Limit (MRL) of pesticide residues are given under PFA Rules, 1955 (Rule 65). 

The presence of heavy metal in the food item (fruit and vegetables) shall not exceed the MRL given under PFA Rules, 1955 (Rule 57). 

The presence of crop contaminants and naturally occurring toxic substances in fruit and vegetables shall not exceed the maximum limit prescribed under PFA Rules, 1955 (Rule 57A and 57 B) 

3- Regulation of Food Law:

Implementation of Prevention of Food Adulteration Act and Rules rests with State/U.T. Governments. The Commissioner Food Safety / Food (Health) Authority of State/U.Ts. have advised to keep strict vigil to check the use of carbide gas and other hazardous chemicals for ripening of fruits and colouring of fruits and vegetables and to take legal action for violation of the provisions of the Act/Rules.

Source: FSSAI website