Don't be fooled by those bright yellow mangoes

The bright yellow King of Fruits in the market may look delicious, but nutritionists and horticulture experts warn people to watch out for the artificial ripening agents used on the mangoes.

One of the chemicals commonly used to hasten the ripening process is calcium carbide. An explosive chemical used to produce welding gas, it is banned under the Prevention of Food Adulteration (PFA) Act and Rules.

The State-run Horticultural Producers Co-operative Marketing and Processing Society Ltd. (HOPCOMS) claims it does not use calcium carbide for ripening and mangoes sold through its outlets are safe for consumption. However, the society uses ethephon, which according to experts is another artificial ripener.

HOPCOMS managing director S. Shanmukhappa says use of ethephon is safe and recommended by scientists worldwide. “It is a plant hormone that facilitates the process of ripening. There are many studies to prove this,” he says.

How to identify

The tendency is to fall for juicy mangoes based on their bright yellow colour, as it is difficult for people to identify artificially ripened fruits. So, experts say the best way to identify an artificially ripened fruit is to see if the whole fruit is uniformly ripe or still hard. “Natural ripening means the fruit will become yellow gradually and not instantly,” K.C. Raghu of Pristine Organics says.

“Fruits ripened with carbide will smell like garlic and will be uniformly yellow,” he adds.

According to Mr. Raghu, calcium carbide releases acetylene gas in contact with moisture, and causes the fruit to ripen in about 15 hours. “It costs only Rs. 25 to Rs. 30 a kg and about 200 kg of mangoes can be ripened with just 1 kg of chemical,” he says. However, it also releases phosphine and arsine that have a detrimental effect on human health, he adds. Mr. Raghu advises people to wash fruits thoroughly before consumption. “Soaking them in water for a few hours is advisable,” he says.