In the mango season, news about ripening the fruit with carcinogenic (cancer-causing) chemicals may have left a bad taste in the mouth. But Delhiites can hope to savour the king of the fruits by either buying fruits that are ripened using ethylene (fruit-ripening plant hormone) or ripen mangoes at home, the traditional way.
Instances where mangoes are ripened using hazardous calcium carbide — banned by the government — have prompted citizens to wish for unadulterated fruits. Delhi being a major trade centre, mangoes arrive here from across the country.
But raids at city mandis have not yielded anything. “Despite a number of raids at the mandis over the last few weeks, we have not found traces of adulteration. Apparently, these were ripened using the masala (as calcium carbide is known locally) in a subtle manner,” said KS Singh, commissioner and director of Delhi’s Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) department,
Meanwhile, consumers are becoming more and more aware and hence, choosey about what they eat. Dr Vanit Kathuria, deputy manager (seeds and support services) at Mother Dairy’s Safal points out, “Apart from conventional factors such as price, quality and demand that affect the market, ‘safety’ has become an important factor in recent times.”
Instead of calcium carbide, Safal authorities have been using ethylene, since setting up the Mangolpuri facility in 1988. Mature unripe mangoes are kept in temperature and humidity-controlled chambers, followed by a trigger of ethylene (at permissible limits) for 24 hours.
At the end of the third day, ripe mangoes are ready to be sent to retail outlets. “This is a kind of an accelerated process using ethylene. When fruits mature in a natural way, they release ethylene, which, in turn releases heat that helps in ripening. It takes six-seven days. But using the ethylene trigger, we get the same result in just three days,” said Subhash Sharma, Safal’s DGM (operations).
Safal has been advocating the ‘ripen mangoes at home’ concept. Unripe mature mangoes available at retail outlets are wrapped in a newspaper and placed in an airtight container for 4-6 days at home.
“The psychology of the consumer is such that they accept things easily if they are involved (in the process). Both children and elders are excited at the prospect of ripening mangoes at home,” Sharma added.