Formalin free fruits are sold at Shawpno's retail stores. Photo: Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo
For young people of our era, staying fit is an obligation. No matter how much they enjoy devouring plates of food fried in oil, deep down the guilt of being overweight almost always seeps in. For most of us, we are caught in a dilemma between a healthy eating pattern and rich food. For some uncanny reason, the seesaw of balance always tips towards the unhealthy habits. Let us imagine that we do want to eat healthy and lose a couple of pounds. How do we go about it? Also, fruits have various uses in our lives even if we do not want to lose weight. For some of us fruit-lovers, we use chunks of watermelon and dip it in 'rooh afza' for added flavour. Likewise, some of us just like cutting fruits into cubes and eat it with custard or ice-cream. Fruits might be available in our country in excess but are these really healthy? The apple you eat might look very attractive and fresh but that's because it is chemically induced to look like that.
Formalin is an agent which is used in fruits to make it appealing and fresh. In general, it is a colourless strong-smelling chemical substance which is derived from formaldehyde gas dissolved in water. Recent scientific studies have shown that formalin is a carcinogenic substance which can cause cancer.
Formaldehyde Meter is a modern technology which is used to detect the formalin in fruits. Photo: Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo
So to help our generation have a healthy diet, Shwapno, ACI Ltd's retail store has introduced formalin free fruits to be sold at their outlets. Mahadi Faisal, Manager of ACI Logistics Ltd and Singer by profession, explains that ACI's main objective is to help in the development of human life. Mahadi is also known as a youth icon who has gained increasing popularity since the Close Up One reality contest. He advocates for the youth and believes that actions must be taken to eradicate harmful substances from food items. So the main aim of ACI's retail business was to bring about a change. “The perishable items have to be free of chemicals. After procurement, we check our fruits to see if there are any substances of formalin. If there are any, then they are immediately rejected,” says Mahadi. He further adds, “Today's businessmen are mostly corrupt and are more concerned with their own selfish benefits. They are keen on selling fruits at low costs by injecting formalin. So to ensure that the customers can eat healthy and live a healthy life, we came up with the concept of formalin free fruits.” “We have introduced the Formaldehyde Meter in 41 outlets. These devices have been purchased from the United States of America. The device is used in front of the customers to see traces of formalin. Customers may also purchase fruits from outside and come to our stores to check for formalin in the fruits. The testing is done free of cost,” elaborates Mahadi.
Formaldehyde Meter Z-300 is used in all the retail stores. The detector is placed against the fruit which is kept in a plastic packet. The screen shows the different stages of testing as it first detects the environment in which the fruit is kept under the label of F1. Then, F2 detects the fruit's skin and lastly, F3 detects the insides of the fruit. If the PPM (parts per portion) is over 15, then it is alarming as it shows that the fruit contains formalin.
It has been almost four months since the technology has been introduced. But it gained popularity in the recent few months. Summer in Bangladesh is all about fruits like pineapple, watermelon, bananas, jackfruit and mangoes. In addition to that, there are fruits that are available round the year like, orange, pomegranate and apples. When young customers come to Shawpno's retail stores, they often look for one of these fruits to make a light and nutritious drink or salad. Kamran Ahmed, an Intern from Bangladesh Medical College (BMC) says, “I buy apples from this place a lot. I trust their honesty. If I do not keep the fruits in the fridge then they get rotten easily which means that there are no formalin substances in the fruit.”
Young people of our generation love eating fruits and believe in maintaining a healthy diet. Photo: Kazi Tahsin Agaz Apurbo
Shusmita Mahboob, a student of American International University Bangladesh (AIUB) states, “I am on the chubbier side and have a tendency to gain weight easily. So I need to eat a lot of fruits. I trust this grocery store, because they test the fruits in front of us before selling them.” She adds, “Pineapples and watermelons are my favourite summer fruits. I always buy these two to make my signature pineapple ice-tea or watermelon shake. At times, I buy mangoes and blend it with pineapples to create a miracle drink called 'pina-mango'. There is nothing more soothing than knowing that what you are drinking is free of chemical substances.”
Our country is no utopia and we should not expect it to be. But we do hold the right to live a healthy lifestyle and enjoy the fruits that are originally the harvests of our land. Shawpno's incentive is noble and we, the young, generation salute them for their cause.