Known as the "king of fruits", mangoes occupy prime places on shelves in the markets across the state. But, think twice before you reach out for the fruit as now days it is more in news for its artificial ripening with the help of harmful chemical substances. The artificial fruit that is being openly sold in the market has more harmful effects than benefits on human beings.
A team of Hindustan Times, on its visit to a fruit market in the city, witnessed that the mangoes ripened with calcium carbide-an artificial ripening agent-were widely available. It is difficult to track the chemical in mangoes as it evaporates on coming in contact with air.
The fruit traders confessed that the chemical was being used to ripen about 80% mangoes reaching the market. They said cartons containing green mangoes reached the market, where they are treated with the chemical and then sold to the customers.
"This is an easy way to ripen the mangoes in a short time period," a trader said. "People will not buy unripe mangoes. By adding the chemical, the mangoes turn yellow within a day," he added.
"Besides, farmers pluck the mangoes when they are premature as they are more resistant to damage during transportation and storage. On the other side, ripen fruits are softer and therefore more prone to damage; doing its transportation in such situation will incur huge losses for all the concerned in the business, he said.
"This practice will be intensified during the ensuing mango season and decreases gradually as the season advances," he further added.
There is hardly any monitoring by the authorities to check the practice and ingestion of calcium carbide cause many diseases.
Calcium carbide is carcinogenic substance and is banned under Section 44A of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, but is being used along with another ripener "Ethephon", which is easily available in the market as pesticide and not restricted under the safety guidelines.
Moreover, according to sub-regulations 2.3.5 of the Food Safety and Standards Regulation, 2011, use of calcium carbide is prohibited in ripening of fruits. There is provision of imprisonment with the penalty for the person concerned.
"The practice of artificial ripening of fruits should be avoided instead ethylene should be used which is considered to be safe ripening agent, scientifically," stated Dr WS Dhillon, director, Punjab Horticulture Post Harvesting Technology Centre.
On being questioned about the provisions made by the district food safety department to ensure quality of fruit items, Ravindra Garg, district food safety officer, said, "Regular raids have been done by the department officials and samplings of suspicious fruits items have been done from time to time. We take stringent actions against the violators too."
Detect artificially ripened fruit
An artificially ripened mango lacks uniformity in colour. It will have green and yellow patches around the surface. Moreover, the fruit gets yellow colour on the outside, but the pulp doesn't ripen properly and does not taste sweet.
Consumption of calcium carbide ripened mangoes affect the neurological system, cause headache, dizziness, mood disturbances, sleepiness, mental confusion, memory loss, cerebral oedema and seizures.
Keenly observe the colour and texture of mangoes. If it is not uniform then avoid buying it
Wash the fruit under running water for sometimes before consuming so that the chemicals are washed away
Try to avoid buying fruits in offseason as there are more chances of artificially ripened fruits during the offseason
Remove the peel before eating the mango
Try to buy fruits from well-established stores