When you open cartons containing mangoes, lookout for tiny packets containing a white powder. The white powder, calcium carbide, is a poisonous chemical that is used for artificially ripening the fruit.
Since the beginning of May, food inspectors from Nagpur and Nashik have seized more than 6,000 kg of Alphonso mangoes, which had been artificially ripened using calcium carbide that releases acytelene gas. The substance is carcinogenic and can result in a host of health problems.
“Using these agents for ripening of mangoes is illegal as per the Food Safety and Standards Act. We have sent out circulars to all the district Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offices to test random samples and make seizures if the powder is found in the boxes,” said GH Rathod, joint commissioner, state FDA.
Doctors said people who handle the mangoes should be careful. “Calcium carbide is known to be carcinogenic. It is also known to precipitate calcium deposits in the body, which is not good. The packets of calcium carbide can break open in the box and can lead to accidental consumption of the chemical. So people should be very careful while handling the boxes,” said Dr Pratit Samdani, consulting physician, Jaslok Hospital.
On May 14, FDA officials seized 5,091 kg of Alphonso mangoes worth Rs 1.37 lakh, which were being artificially ripened, and destroyed them.
In the first week of May, FDA officials destroyed 1,100 kg of mangoes worth Rs 99,000 for the same reasons. In both cases, the FDA will file a complaint with the local courts.
FDA officials said the artificial ripening affects the flavour of the fruit. “While the fruit looks yellow and ripe from the outside, it lacks taste,” Rathod said.