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Pune Speak up : How hazardous is chemical ripening of fruits?

Wednesday, 14 May 2014 - 12:55pm IST | Place: Pune | Agency: dna

- Why the hazardous practice of using chemical like calcium carbide for artificial ripening of fruits (especially mangoes) should be stopped? What are its ill effects?
  • - Why the hazardous practice of using chemical like calcium carbide for artificial ripening of fruits (especially mangoes) should be stopped? What are its ill effects? dna finds out....

Carcinogens can convert normal human cells into cancer cells
It is very difficult to say if calcium carbide will translate into any kind of malignancy in human body. Though this chemical is not listed as a cancer-causing agent, it has been defined as a carcinogen. Carcinogens are those agents which have the potentiality to convert normal human cells into cancer cells. There are several carcinogenic chemicals, but as we are hardly exposed to it or use it, it does not pose any real danger. For example fluoride is carcinogenic, but as we use it within permissible limits it is safe for human body. Even cigarette smoke has 4,000 chemicals in it, of which 60 are carcinogenic. Similarly, calcium carbide should not be used in large quantity or very frequently. That said, how much is the appropriate quantity and what quantity can cause ill-health can be rightly answered by the Food and Drug Authority.
—Dr Manish Jain, Oncologist 

It is an unhealthy practice and it is banned
The use of calcium carbide chemical is lawfully banned from using it to ripen mangoes or any other fruit. When used on mangoes, they decrease the moisture in the fruit. The arsenic and phosphorous gases that are released by calcium carbide powder turns the outer skin of the mango yellow and ripens the fruit only to certain extent. The artificially ripened fruits through this process only looks healthy, but the pulp is not fully ripened. It is an unhealthy practice and it is banned. This hazardous calcium carbide chemical is used for welding purpose and is said to be carcinogenic. The fruit traders are just using this chemical to make fast money, they do not want to spend 8-15 days needed for natural ripening of mangoes. 
—Shashikant Kekare, Joint Commissioner, Food & Drug Administration (Pune)

The chemical is known to have harmful effecton the human body 
Calcium carbide is a known carcinogen, a cancer-producing chemical. Irrespective of what quantity you may consume, the chemical is known to have harmful effects on the liver and other parts of body. It can even be fatal. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI), an agency of the ministry of health and family welfare, government of India, has banned using the chemical for ripening any kind of fruits. If someone is using calcium carbide, it can be easily detected using an on-field test. The chemical is generally used for ripening bananas and seasonal fruit such as mangoes. For fruit traders, the point is to speed up the ripening process so that they can cash-in immediately. The chemical is definitely harmful, and even after washing the fruit with water, the residue in Point Per Trillion (PPT) can be found, which can also percolate into the fruit pulp.
—Dr. Abhay Desai, Director, Food Hygiene and Health Laboratory

Calcium carbide has been used for many yearsfor ripening mangoes
The chemical calcium carbide is being used for many years in the mango ripening process, because the mangoes plucked by the farmers are raw and hard and takes very long time to ripe naturally. It takes 10 to 15 days for mangoes to ripe naturally and using calcium carbide on the fruit reduces it to just 8 days. Approximately 20 grams of calcium carbide is used for 4 to 6 dozen mangoes, and that too is used on the exterior of the fruit. The chemical only oxidises the chlorophyll present and converts the green color to yellow. The carbide can be washed off, if the fruits are kept soaked in the water. We do not know if calcium carbide is bad for health or is carcinogenic. The FDA officials should do the chemical analysis and make a report on how much exposure to calcium carbide will be bad for health.
—Natha Khaire, Fruit Wholesaler

We have to go by what FDA approves and disapproves
If the FDA does not approve of using the chemical calcium carbide for ripening mangoes, how can these fruit traders use them? How can they argue that they are using it in small quantity? It is obvious that the practice of using calcium carbide is an unnatural practice, and when FDA is disapproving, the fruit traders cannot proceed with the unhealthy practice. The fruit traders are saying that they are using it small quantity, but who is going to keep control on how much they are using? It is not possible for FDA to go every fruit wholesaler and keep a watch, it is not practical. The chemical is being used to speed-up the ripening process and earn more profits. Even milk adulterators said in court that they were using adulterants in very small quantity. If the FDA does not approve even a small quantity, who gives them right use such hazardous chemicals for ripening fruits? We have to go by what FDA approves and disapproves, as it is the highest authority.
—Dr Abhijit Vaidya,National President, Arogya Sena 

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