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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Artificially ripened mangoes prove risky

I have always been an advocate for fruit and vegetables that are ripe when picked. There is a magical effect the sun has on them when you leave them attached as long as possible. That magical adds flavor and nutrition. But what happens when they do get picked early and ripen in a controlled environment of a warehouse. The following story is very interesting on Artificially ripened mangoes.
Marcus Guiliano
Aroma Thyme Bistro

Agri. & Commodities
Artificially ripened mangoes prove risky
R. Sujatha and K. Lakshmi

Chronic consumption could affect the kidneys and lead to carcinogenic action, experts say

CHENNAI: A few days ago, Kasiamma of Thoraipakkam, a domestic help, reported for work with a swollen face. She said she was fine until she ate a mango. Kasiamma took several medicines but has not yet recovered.

Vanitha Rajan of Maduravoyal had a similar experience. “I bought mangoes in a shop here last week. Within hours, I suffered a stomach upset and was sick for two days.” Several people in suburbs such as Ambattur, Avadi and Nerkundram also reported similar problems.

Though eating the fruit will not bring about such an allergic reaction, the method of ripening it could cause such problems, say public health specialists.

Regular consumption of artificially ripened fruits could result in diarrhoea and gastric irritation. Chronic consumption could affect the kidneys and theoretically lead to carcinogenic action, said T. Jeyakumar, former Joint Director of Public Health.

Wholesale traders in Koyambedu and Madhavaram said a fall in the arrival of the fruits could have resulted in more instances of artificial ripening to meet the demand. The city receives most of its supply from Andhra Pradesh besides from Dindigul and Salem.

Traders in Madhavaram said that this year the wholesale market received 1,500 tonnes of mangoes, which is only 50 per cent of its usual supply. S. Sudarsanam, a wholesale trader, said: “Artificial ripening will be done at the beginning of the season, mostly in April-May, when more people crave to taste the fruit.”

Fall in supply and higher prices (a tonne of the Banganpalli variety is priced between Rs.50,000 and Rs.60,000) could mean more sellers would consider artificial ripening, he said.

Calcium carbide stones are powdered and placed in paper pouches in the basket or as a stone in mango godowns. An artificially ripened fruit would present a yellow outer skin but the tissue inside would not be ripe. Though mangoes ripen in two days they cannot be stored for more than two days, Mr. Sudarsanam said.

A customer cannot differentiate between a naturally ripe mango and an artificially ripened one, Dr. Jeyakumar said. “Eating artificially ripened mangoes causes stomach upset because the alkaline substance is an irritant that erodes the mucosal tissue in the stomach and disrupts intestinal function. Chronic exposure to the chemical could lead to peptic ulcer,” he said.

Artificial ripening is banned under the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act, 1954 and the Prevention of Food Adulteration Rules, 1955. Seized fruits are removed from the markets and buried. Bleaching powder is added to the fruit to destroy them, said Chennai Corporation’s Health officer P. Kuganantham.

Traders said June and July, which marked the end of the mango season, would be the best time to taste the fruit as the market would be flooded with ripe mangoes.

Officials of many local bodies in the northern and western suburbs said cases of artificial ripening had not been reported so far. But mango godowns are periodically checked by the sanitary inspectors of the respective local bodies for artificial ripening of the fruits.

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