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FSSAI Issues Warning on Calcium Carbide in Mango Ripening; Learn How to Spot Unsafe Fruit

Summer in India is synonymous with the arrival of the king of fruits: the mango. However, amid the excitement of the mango season, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has issued a crucial warning regarding the use of calcium carbide for ripening mangoes, urging consumers to stay vigilant.

Sarbani Bhattacharjee
FSSAI Issues Warning on Calcium Carbide in Mango Ripening (This image has been created with MidJourney)
FSSAI Issues Warning on Calcium Carbide in Mango Ripening (This image has been created with MidJourney)

Calcium carbide, a chemical compound used primarily in the production of acetylene gas for welding, has found an illicit application in the food industry as a ripening agent for fruits.

Acetylene gas is produced once calcium carbide is exposed to moisture. This process fastens up the ripening process of fruits like mangoes. Despite its effectiveness, the use of calcium carbide in food is fraught with dangers and has been banned in many countries, including India, since 2011. However, due to its low cost and ease of access, some unscrupulous vendors continue to use this hazardous chemical.

The Dangers of Using Calcium Carbide

The use of calcium carbide to ripen mangoes poses significant health risks. The chemical can contain impurities such as arsenic and phosphorus, which are harmful to human health. Exposure to these impurities can lead to a range of adverse health effects:

Respiratory Problems: Inhalation of acetylene gas generated by calcium carbide can cause respiratory issues, including throat and lung irritation.

Neurological Issues: Prolonged exposure can affect the nervous system, leading to symptoms like dizziness, headache, and memory loss.

Gastrointestinal Distress: Consuming fruits ripened with calcium carbide can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, and other gastrointestinal problems.

Cancer Risk: Long-term exposure to arsenic and other contaminants in calcium carbide has been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

Ways to Identify Artificially Ripened Mangoes

Identifying artificially ripened mangoes can help consumers avoid potential health risks. Here are some tips to distinguish naturally ripened mangoes from those ripened with calcium carbide:

Uniform Ripening: Artificially ripened mangoes often have an unnatural uniform color. Natural ripening usually results in uneven coloration with some green patches.

Smell: Naturally ripened mangoes have a sweet, fragrant aroma, while those ripened with chemicals may have little to no smell.

Texture: Fruits ripened with calcium carbide tend to be overly soft and may exhibit a powdery residue on the skin.

Taste: Artificially ripened mangoes often lack the rich, sweet flavor of naturally ripened ones and can taste sour or insipid.

The FSSAI’s warning serves as a reminder to consumers to remain vigilant about the sources of their food and to be aware of the potential dangers of chemically ripened fruits. By choosing naturally ripened mangoes and supporting vendors who adhere to safe ripening practices, one can enjoy the delicious bounty of mango season without compromising our health.

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