It’s that time of the year to dig into ripe yellow mangoes but think twice before you have them because in countries like India where there is a huge demand for mangoes, they are often ripened artificially with calcium carbide, a known carcinogen-having the ability to alter human cells into cancer cells.Ripening agents like calcium carbide speed up the ripening process in fruits and vegetables and allow farmers to pick them before their full ripening. Calcium carbide in contact with moisture produces acetylene gas which is similar to the natural ripening agent, ethylene. It acts like ethylene and quickens the ripening process. Calcium carbide sometimes contains arsenic and phosphorus chemicals which is harmful for humans.
Eating these artificially ripened mangoes may give you symptoms like headaches, dizziness, sleep disorders and even memory loss.
According to Dr Sanjeev Kulkarni, a gynaecologist and also a progressive organic farmer, the use of calcium carbide could lead to skin allergies and skin rashes which could also cause skin cancer. He further adds that “most of the fruits procured from the market are artificially ripened, the only way to skim the carbide content is to wash the fruits properly.”
It is surprising to know that calcium carbide is banned in India but it is freely available and used across the country to ripen fruits. Mango vendors do not want to wait till the fruit ripens on its own but to scale up their sales they resort to artificially ripening them with chemicals like calcium carbide.
Some fruit traders ripen bananas in closed places where they release huge amounts of calcium carbide and douse it in water before sealing the closed place. The acetylene is released and starts the ripening process in fruits, however it is inflammable and could start a fire.
According to a report in the Daily Mail, fruit traders in Delhi resort to using small packets of what they call as ‘masala’ or calcium carbide, which they put inside the fruit boxes or sprinkle on the fruit surface. This action is highly toxic to the health of humans as calcium carbide contains arsenic hydride and phosphorus hydride which are carcinogenic compounds.
Government of India has banned the use of calcium carbide for ripening of fruits under PFA Act 8-44 AA, 1954 but is still being used widely across India to ripen fruits and vegetables, we urge the Central government and FSSAI to take strict action against vendors using calcium carbide unlawfully in India and also see to it that this carcinogenic compound should not be bought or sold anywhere in India.