After Maggi, artificially ripened mangoes can hit the harmful list, as hazardous ripeners are being used to make them look juicier and pulpier, health experts have warned.
Their concerns are not out of place as calcium carbide ripened mangoes are being openly sold in Indore markets despite the fact that the chemical is harmful for health and has been banned as a ripener, said the food safety department officials on Friday.
However, it is difficult to find an evidence of calcium carbide in the mangoes as it evaporates when it comes in contact with air moisture, food safety officer Manish Swami said, adding that calcium carbide is a carcinogenic substance and banned under Section 44A of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act.
However, it continues to be widely used along with another ripener ethephon, which is easily available in the market as a pesticide and not restricted under the safety guidelines.
Ethephon too is harmful although it has not been banned. The official website of the Food Safety Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), however, states “ethephon is a pesticide and so it is not recommended as a ripening enhancer,” health experts said.
Mangoes ripened with calcium carbide are of uniform colour but are inferior in taste and flavour, nutrition expert Uttam Bansal said adding that calcium carbide ripened fruits contain traces of arsenic and phosphorus and may cause mouth irritation, stomach upset and result in headache, dizziness and mood disturbances.
Choithram mandi sources say the mangoes that arrive in Indore markets from other states are plucked raw by the farmers to prevent damage during transportation.
They say that mangoes are ripened in two ways. One is to place a small packet containing calcium carbide with the boxes during transportation.
The chemical reacts with the moisture and releases acetylene which catalyses the ripening process.
The other way is to dip the mangoes in a solution of ethephon, which is a plant growth regulator.
In April this year, the food safety department in Goa destroyed 12,000 kg of mangoes that were ripened using ethephon. However, authorities in Indore have not taken any mango samples this year.
The Indore administration has set up an ethylene gas plant for artificial ripening of bananas through a safe and scientific manner. However, there is no arrangement for ripening of mangoes.