From Hapus and Alphonso to Lalbagh, Payari, and a host of other mango varieties flooding the market, it’s officially mango season in India.

While you can pick your favourite mangoes from stores and markets, how can you ensure you’re selecting mangoes that are free from chemicals?

Calcium carbide, referred to as masala, is commonly employed to ripen mangoes despite its usage being strictly prohibited under the FSSAI’s Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales Regulation, 2011.

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.

“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 in an interview in 2018.

The traces of arsenic and phosphorous hydride in the chemical could lead to vomiting, diarrhoea, weakness, ulcers on the skin, permanent eye damage, and shortness of breath among individuals.

It could also affect the neurological system of the individual causing headaches, dizziness, sleepiness, mental confusion, memory loss, cerebral oedema, and so on.

When you eat an artificially ripened mango, you will feel a slight sense of burning in your taste buds. In some cases, people could experience stomach aches, diarrhoea and burning down the throat.

Other than calcium carbide, there are several other chemicals like ethylene powder that are used for the same purpose.

Here are some simple ways to differentiate between artificially ripened and chemical-free mangoes:

Bucket test Drop the mangoes into a bucket of water and observe. If the mangoes sink, they are naturally ripened but if they float on water, they are chemically ripened.

Check the colour The surface of chemically ripened mangoes may display a mixture of yellow and green colours, with the green patches being distinctly different from the yellow. In naturally ripened mangoes, the colouration will be a uniform blend of green and yellow.

When you cut an artificially ripened mango in half, the colour of the pulp near its skin is different from the inner pulp. Whereas, the colour will be a uniform yellow in naturally ripened mangoes.

Moreover, naturally ripened mangoes have brown spots whereas artificially ripened ones have pale or white spots. Mangoes with a white or blue mark should not be bought at all.

Juicy or not Unlike artificially ripened ones, chemical-free mangoes will be very juicy.

Where to pick right mangoes? The FSSAI suggests purchasing fruits and vegetables from known sellers and reputed stores who can claim that the fruits sold by them are not ripened by using harmful or banned chemicals.

FSSAI also advises washing fruits thoroughly with running potable water before eating and avoiding fruits with black blotches on the skin. Such fruits are likely to be ripened by acetylene gas produced from calcium carbide.