109 dozen mangoes ripened with toxic chemical seized from Navi Mumbai market | mumbai news | Hindustan Times
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109 dozen mangoes ripened with toxic chemical seized from Navi Mumbai market

FDA officials seized them from two out of 20 outlets of APMC fruit market as the wholesalers were using calcium carbide

mumbai Updated: Apr 30, 2018 12:26 IST
Sadaguru Pandit
The wholesalers were using calcium carbide—an agent that produces acetylene gas that acts like the natural ripening agent ethylene to accelerate the ripening process. 
The wholesalers were using calcium carbide—an agent that produces acetylene gas that acts like the natural ripening agent ethylene to accelerate the ripening process. (HT PHOTO)

Artificial fruit-ripening methods used by some mango wholesalers and retailers are a health hazard for Mumbaiites. As Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) officials consider regulating the sale and distribution of calcium carbide, a hazardous chemical compound used for mango ripening, members of Agricultural Produce Market Committee, Navi Mumbai, said poor quality control system and high demand for ripe mangoes are key reasons chemicals are being used.

In a recent crackdown, FDA officials seized over 109 dozen mangoes from two out of 20 outlets of APMC fruit market. Officials found that the two wholesalers were using calcium carbide—an agent that produces acetylene gas that acts like the natural ripening agent ethylene to accelerate the ripening process.

“Apart from being a carcinogenic chemical compound, calcium carbide contains arsenic and phosphorus, known to be fatal for human consumption. While the sale of artificial ethylene is allowed in permissible limits, acetylene is completely banned due to known side effects,” said Chandrashekhar Salunkhe, joint commissioner (Food), FDA.

Salunkhe added that the samples of seized mangoes have been sent to laboratories to test the residue levels of hazardous chemicals and upon receiving the report, action will be taken against the culprits under Food Safety and Consumer Protection Act, 2006.

In 2017, FDA officials in Ulhasnagar had seized around 890kg of mangoes from wholesalers who were using calcium carbide as a ripening agent. Officials, considering the trend, said they have considered writing to the state and union ministry, to regulate the rampant sale of the component and put a stop to the mischievous activities.

“The component, available in powder form, is used in welding and numerous other processes, which have no connection to the food industry and hence it’s easily available at hardware stores. We will write to the appropriate department to regulate the sale to licensed merchants so that such indiscriminate use of the chemical agent can be stopped,” Salunkhe added.

However, members of APMC market said that the FDA should ideally create awareness amongst the consumers and wholesalers, who have created a stressful demand supply chain that forces the latter to opt for unnatural methods of fruit ripening.

“Every day, over 1.25 lakh mango boxes come to APMC market from every part of the country such as Gujarat, Andhra Pradesh and Maharashtra. If FDA can set up mobile laboratories to test and certify each truck or create a process of surveillance that ensures contaminated mangoes don’t reach consumers, these activities can be abolished,” said a top APMC member.

“Due to high demand of consumers, they are not ready to wait for the natural ripening process, which takes about a week. Nobody wants to opt for such methods, but economically weaker section of merchants don’t have a choice to wait as consumer demand is high for ripe mangoes,” the member added.