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Monday, May 6, 2013

Juicy mangoes? Bright yellow could mean danger

Juicy mangoes? Bright yellow could mean danger
Daniel P George TNN

Chennai: Agriculturists last month predicted a bumper mango harvest this season, but the first batches of the fruit, all a luscious yellow, could pose a serious health hazard.
   Traders are using the carcinogenic compound calcium carbide to artificially ripen the fruit, food safety officials said after carrying out raids in the Koyambedu wholesale market on Tuesday. They raided 53 shops and seized two tonnes of mangoes that were ripened using calcium carbide. They seized 250kg of the chemical.
   Officials said they would issue notices to fruit and vegetable shops in the city on Wednesday, cautioning them against the use of calcium carbide.
   Experts say many traders use calcium carbide to artificially ripen the fruit early in the mango season. "Many of the batches that arrive in the market early are artificially ripened," environmentalist V Arun said. "Traders are exposing customers to serious health risks."
   He said farm owners do not wait for the mangoes to ripen. They give contracts to traders early instead, looking to clear the fruit from the trees at one go. "These mangoes look ripe because they are a bright yellow and have a shorter shelf life, but they are dangerous to eat," Arun said.
   The recently set up commissionerate of food safety has made it clear to fruit traders that calcium carbide is banned under Section 44A of the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act. But it is widely used by fruit merchants.
   Gastroenterologist Dr J Sukumaran said industrial-grade calcium carbide may contain traces of the poisonous chemicals arsenic and phosphorous. Experts say it can damage the kidney, heart and liver and can also cause ulcer and gastric problems. Calcium carbide can also affect the brain and lungs.
   He said people who consume artificially ripened fruit may develop diarrhoea, gastroenteritis and other stomach infections.

What is calcium carbide
A chemical compound used by traders to artificially ripen fruits It is cheap. One kg of calcium carbide costs 25- 30 and can ripen 10 tonnes of fruit

How to spot artificially ripened fruits
Mangoes will have black spots on the skin. They are soft and have a shorter shelf life. They are raw at the core and you may find bubbles around the seed Multi-coloured patches on skin. Mangoes develop red, yellow and green patches Do not buy fruits that arrive in the market before their normal season

Food safety officials raided 53 shops in Koyambedu on Tuesday and seized two tonnes of artificially ripened mangoes

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