Exploding Chinese Melons

Melons in China are exploding…and not exactly with juicy goodness.

An untimely application of forchlorfenuron – a growth-boosting chemical – is likely to blame.

Exploding melons shaking consumers

Firstly, forchlorfenuron is legal in China. It is also legal in the US and is registered for use on kiwis and grapes. However, even while legal, with China’s poor record of food safety, the exploding melons are stoking fear in Chinese consumers.

China’s food is often under scruntiny and rightfully so. After leather-laden milk, tainted rice and breast-growing babies, bursting melons don’t go over well.

It just highlights the abuse of chemicals (both legal and illegal) on crops in China, as well as the general disinterest in food safety and proper practice.

Proper use of growth-boosters

The idea behind using forchlorfenuron is to boost growth, pushing forward the harvest and increasing size, and thus profits. It is meant to be applied early in the fruit growth process, either during flowering or very early in fruit development.

The Chinese farmers likely used it too late in the season and also during a very wet period, which caused the melons to burst. So sadly, instead of increasing their profits, this mistake deemed a large portion of their crops unsellable and barely good enough for the pigs.

Is it safe?

Forchlorfenuron is used in very small amounts (less than 10 grams per acre).

From trials, it was determined to not be a carcinogen and lists no endocrine-disrupting effects. At very high doses (much much higher than is likely to be consumed by a human from food) it may affect body weight and kidney function.

From the literature, it seems that it is indeed relatively safe, but given the existing history, Chinese consumers remain afraid.

Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons by whologwhy

Sources: MSNBC, EPA, The Raw Story

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