Do stickers on fruits and vegetable pose a health hazard?

When we go out to buy our groceries, you might have noticed that there are certain fruits which are marked with stickers. But, did you ever question, what is their purpose? While they are mainly used to indicate the food quality of fruits and vegetables, experts state that they can misused and can also mislead the consumers

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Many a times, we come across fruits in the market which have a white sticker or a label stuck upon them. We generally tend to believe that this means that the fruit are of excellent quality. While they generally are of a good quality at times, sellers use them to hide the defects and rotten parts of a fruit.

It is also important to remove and wash these stickers, as they aren’t edible.  At times, you may accidentally ingest them, then it’s alright as they are mostly made of paper, but is advisable that you peel or scratch it off before munching on them.

My Medical Mantra spoke to a few health experts and asked them about their option on this matter.

Dr Shweta Khandelwal, Nutritionist, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI), stated, “Fruits and vegetables are the best source of vitamins and minerals for us. However, if they are unclean or infected, they can do us more harm than good. Many times vendors use stickers to showcase their product as superior wanting to sell their product at a higher cost or hide decayed parts. This is very misleading for consumers. The adhesive used behind stickers could have harmful chemicals which may leach inside the porous skin of fruits and vegetables.”

Dr Khadelwal added, “Thus when we consume these contaminated fruits and vegetables, we can get sick. Even if we wash fruits after purchase, the chemicals would have already leached in and ready to infect us. Our immunity gets weakened; we can suffer from gastrointestinal problems like stomach infections etc. If repeated exposure persists, we may also be at bigger risk for developing toxicity, cancers etc. So one must avoid purchasing fruits and vegetables with stickers on them to save both our health and wealth.”

Dr Pratik Marakwad, a General Physician, said, “We should wash fruits carefully before eating them. Even we remove the sticker and wash the fruits, the sticky substance remains on the top layer of the fruit. It contains chemicals and if we consume these fruits, health problems can occur.”

The Food and Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI ) had also in the past issued guidelines to all the states to monitor the sale of fruits with stickers on it. And also had appealed the fruit vendors to avoid putting a sticker on the fruits.

FSSAI’s guidelines have stated:

“However, it was observed that in India, the traders use the stickers to make their product look premium, and sometimes hide the decay or defect the product. Brand name, tested OK or best quality are some common terms mentioned on stickers, which do not have any significance,” it added.