This is definitely a consumer alert that all should be aware of. You may have noticed some unusually large watermelons and kiwi fruit on the shelves lately.
China’s largest base of these fruits has fallen into a scandal as farmers are overusing growth chemicals in an attempt to make extra money for their enhanced weight. The chemicals are also being used in other countries who are the top producers of the world of these fruits.
MSNBC reports:“Chinese regulations don’t forbid use of the substance. It is also allowed in the United States for use on kiwi fruit and grapes … About 20 farmers and 115 acres of watermelon around Danyang were affected … Farmers resorted to chopping up the fruit and feeding it to fish and pigs”.
The farmers spray forchlorfenuron, a growth accelerator, during overly wet weather which makes the melons burst, CCTV said, citing agricultural experts. Readers should be aware that forchlorfenuron is also registered for use on grapes raisins, and kiwi in the United States, Chile, Egypt, Israel, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa, Turkey, Canada and Europe.
What is Forchlorfenuron?
Forchlorfenuron is a cytokinin, that is, it’s a substance that promotes cell division and delays cell death. FCF acts on septins, which are key factors in mitosis, cell division. That function results in larger–and exploding–fruit. The application of excess FCF prompts cells to divide more rapidly. That’s a cancer-like function.
Of course, the greater multiplication of cells produces bigger fruits, but that excess growth is not necessarily accompanied by adequate nutrients. Therefore, the stability and nutritional quality of the fruit tends to deteriorate.
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Pesticide Fact Sheet, forchlorfenuron causes inflammation, growth retardation, emaciation, and increased mortality in rats tested.
Look Out For White seeds in Watermelons
Most watermelons sold at wholesale markets are believed to have been treated with forchlorfenuron. Telltale signs are fibrous, misshapen fruit with mostly white instead of black seeds.
But the report underscores how farmers are abusing both legal and illegal chemicals, with many farms misusing pesticides and fertilizers.
How to Spot Fruit Grown with Growth Accelerating Chemicals
One of the tell-tale signs of a fruit or vegetable that hasn’t been grown by entirely natural means is their inherent lack of flavor. It may look plump and ripe, but once you bite into it, it’s anything but a flavor sensation. This is because while growth enhancers like forchlorfenuron stimulate cell division, making the fruit grow faster, it also drains it of flavor. This is actually rather logical if you think about it. Flavor is a sign of ripeness, which only comes with time. Many unripe fruits and vegetables are virtually tasteless.
In the case of watermelons, those treated with forchlorfenuron are very large and brightly colored on the outside, but the color of the flesh is more white than deep red. Other telltale signs are white instead of black seeds and fibrous, and/or misshapen fruit. (Note, this is for regular watermelons, which have black seeds. Seedless watermelons typically have tiny white seeds.)