Earlier this month, food safety officials seized about 12 tonnes of mangoes and two tonnes of mosambis, both of which had been artificially ripened, they said. Such reports have been confirmed across different parts of the country, including Tirupur, where 1.5 tonnes of chemically ripened mangoes were seized as well.
Such incidents point to the need for increasing awareness among consumers, who do not know how to differentiate these artificial fruits from the natural ones. Moreover, these chemicals are dangerous, and can cause several health complications including cancer.
In a survey conducted among 13,000 people, around 78 per cent were found to be clueless about identifying artificially ripened mangoes, says a 2019 report by the Times of India.
Experts note that the leading chemical used in the process of ripening these fruits is calcium carbide. “Pouches of calcium carbide are placed with mangoes. When this chemical comes in contact with moisture, acetylene gas is produced, the effects of which are similar to ethylene, the one that is naturally used for the fruit ripening process,” Ashwin Bhadri, CEO of Equinox Labs told NDTV.
What are the harmful effects of Calcium Carbide?
The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) had banned the usage of calcium carbide (CaC2), often known as ‘Masala’, under its Prevention of Food Adulteration Act (PFA) rules, as well as the Food Safety and Standards Regulations, owing to the serious health issues it causes.
Calcium carbide has carcinogenic properties and is often used in welding. It is cheap and easily available in local markets leading to its indiscriminate use, notes FSSAI.
Besides, the traces of arsenic and phosphorous hydride in the chemical can lead to poisoning, resulting in vomiting, diarrhea, weakness, ulcers on skin, permanent eye damage, and shortness of breath. It can also affect the neurological system causing headaches, dizziness, sleepiness, mental confusion, memory loss, cerebral oedema, and so on.
Other than calcium carbide, there are several other chemicals like ethylene powder that are used for the same purpose.
How to identify them?
There are different ways in which you can differentiate between artificially ripened mangoes from chemical-free ones. The simplest being the bucket test.
Drop the mangoes into a bucket of water and observe. If the mangoes float on water, they are chemically ripened. If they sink, they are natural.
There are a few more methods to identify the same.
1. Check the colour
In chemically ripened mangoes, the surface could have a mixture of yellow and green colours, where the green, appearing in patches, is clearly distinguishable from the yellow. But in naturally ripened mangoes, it will be a uniform blend of green and yellow.
2. Juicy or not
Chemical free mangoes will be juicy, unlike artificially ripened ones, which will have very less juice inside.
3. Taste it to identify
If a mango is artificially ripened, when you consume it, you will feel a slight sense of burning on your taste buds. In some cases, people could experience stomach ache, diarrhoea and burning down the throat.
If you identify any shops that sell artificially ripened mangoes, you can alert the food safety department through WhatsApp on 9444042322.
Coimbatore: 12 tonnes of artificially ripened mangoes seized by The Times of India, published on May 12 2022.
1.5 tonnes of artificially ripened mangoes seized in Tamil Nadu’s Villupuram by The New Indian Express, published on May 11, 2022.
78% can’t detect truth behind ripe mangoes by The Times of India, published on May 16, 2019.
Are You Eating Mangoes That Contain Toxic Chemicals? Easy Tips To Help You Find Out by NDTV, published on May 3, 2018.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)
We at The Better India want to showcase everything that is working in this country. By using the power of constructive journalism, we want to change India – one story at a time. If you read us, like us and want this positive movement to grow, then do consider supporting us via the following buttons.
Please read these FAQs before contributing.