The Food Safety and Drug Administration Department on Tuesday commenced raids on wholesale outlets of mangoes in the city. Of the 52 shops raided in Koyambedu Market 36 were found to use chemicals such as calcium carbide for ripening of mangoes. The officials seized 250 kg of calcium carbide and destroyed two tonnes of mangoes.
According to Food Safety officials, the clinically proven carcinogenic chemical is being used across various wholesale and retail outlets to ripen mangoes and other fruits such as papayas. The Koyambedu Wholesale Fruit Market, which is the point of arrival of mangoes in the city, continues to see a lot of use of the chemical despite warning by civic authorities. The officials said they found labourers packing calcium carbide into small sachets on Tuesday so that they could be hidden within the mangoes for ripening. Use of the chemical to ripen mangoes is prohibited under the Food Safety and Standards Act.
Calcium carbide is a hazardous chemical and contains traces of arsenic and phosphorus hydride.
While inhalation of the chemical can cause unconsciousness, consumption of fruits ripened using the chemical may have serious health implications.
According to T. Jeyakumar, former joint director of public health and State health authority for food adulteration, the calcium carbide stones and powder can severely affect the stomach. “Often, people think that eating a few fruits during the season may not cause harm. The chemical irritates the mucous lining of the stomach and causes ulcers. Over a period of time, unhealed ulcers can cause cancer,” he said.
An even more worrisome trend is spraying of fruit-laden trees with organo phosphorous chemicals. The chemical, which has carcinogenic substances, can cause serious health problems to the persons who spray the chemicals too, Dr. Jeyakumar explained.