With the mango season arriving in the district, the food safety department has begun tightening their noose over sale of artificially ripened mangoes. While use of ethylene is allowed to ripen the mangoes, using calcium carbide to do the same is banned.
The chemical is often used by wholesalers who want to offload large stocks before the arrival of the main season, so they capitalize on the initial demand.
The food safety department last week seized two tonnes of artificially ripened mangoes from a wholesaler in Pollachi. The seized mangoes included the popular Banganapalli and Alphonso varieties.
“The mangoes were found to have been artificially ripened with calcium carbide which is banned according to the food safety laws,” said a senior food safety officer based in Coimbatore West. “We only allow artificial ripening through ethylene,” he said.
Calcium carbide stones are usually placed inside the mango boxes, because when the chemical comes into contact with any form of moisture, it produces acetylene gas which accelerates the ripening process.
“However, according to food safety laws, calcium carbide is considered a carcinogenic (cancer causing) substance, because it sometimes contains traces of arsenic” said the officer.
“This is the reason we have installed three artificial ripening chambers, which just gas the fruits with ethylene,” said C Durai, proprietor of Pazhamudhir Nilayam, in Nehru Stadium. “So we put the fruit inside it for three to five days,” he said.
With a long dry spell this summer, the mango season has been described as ‘average’ by both wholesalers and mango growers.
“Many flowers which turn to fruits drop during heavy dry winds that blew during the North-East monsoons,” said K Manikandan, a mango grower in Pollachi.
“We have already begun receiving stock from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh and Kerala, but the fruits are small and not satisfactory in size,” said Durai. “So, the season will also get over fast.
Usually Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh stock comes well after Tamil Nadu’s stock arrives,” he said. The prices currently hover around 100per kg for Alphonso mangoes and 70 to 75 for Banganapalli mangoes.
The prices reportedly dropped because of heavy arrivals last week, but is expected to go up over the next month as the season gets over, said sources.