Give a wide berth to chem­i­cally ripened man­goes

Progressive Grocer (India) - - Contents - By San­tanu Bhat­tachar­jee

As the mango sea­son breaks in, it chal­lenges the de­mand-sup­ply mech­a­nism, leav­ing room for uneth­i­cal ways to man­age de­mand up­swings.

As the sum­mer sea­son peaks, man­goes can be seen ev­ery­where! The king of fruits is a com­mon love most of us share in the sul­try months. I still have fond mem­o­ries of pluck­ing man­goes from the tree and savour­ing it till the last bite. As a die-hard afi­cionado of man­goes, I wait for this sea­son ev­ery year, to de­light my taste buds with an as­sort­ment of dif­fer­ent va­ri­eties. We In­di­ans have been for­tu­nate enough to have hun­dreds of va­ri­eties with each re­gion hav­ing its own spe­cial­ity and price range. A quick take on the his­toric jour­ney of mango tells us that the fruit has been with us for about 4,000 years now and has been savoured by var­i­ous em­pires and monar­chies down the ages. So much so, some em­per­ors have even favoured this fruit as a tool of diplo­macy and it has trav­elled across na­tions. Man­goes even find men­tion in Vedic lit­er­a­tures and the fruit’s leaves are con­sid­ered to be aus­pi­cious, sig­ni­fy­ing life.

Not only does mango have a rich his­tory but the fruit also car­ries its good­ness in abun­dance of nu­tri­tion. It is rich in Vi­ta­min A along with nat­u­ral de­tox­i­fy­ing agents like flavonoids, carotenes, and polyphe­nols. The fruit is also rich in di­etary fiber and con­tains the right amount of sim­ple sug­ars. More­over, man­goes are loaded with phy­tonu­tri­ents and trace ele­ments like Vi­ta­min C. Apart from these nu­tri­ents, man­goes con­tain 25 dif­fer­ent kinds of carotenoids, which help to keep our im­mune sys­tem healthy and pro­vide pro­tec­tion against pathogens.

With such a rich le­gacy and nu­tri­tive value, man­goes in to­day’s en­vi­ron­ment are also be­com­ing a cause of con­cern. As the sea­son breaks in, it chal­lenges the de­mand-sup­ply mech­a­nism, leav­ing room for uneth­i­cal routes to man­age de­mand up­swings. The not-so-ma­ture man­goes are har­vested for mar­ket and, in the process, are treated with a chem­i­cal called Cal­cium Car­bide, pop­u­larly known as ‘Masala’. This agent acts as a ripen­ing agent and ripens the fruit in a much faster way but also leaves be­hind traces of ar­senic and phos­pho­rus. It is a very strong re­ac­tive chem­i­cal and when it comes in con­tact with mois­ture, it pro­duces acety­lene gas. Acety­lene is be­lieved to af­fect the hu­man ner­vous sys­tem by re­duc­ing oxy­gen sup­ply to the brain and may cause mouth ul­cers, gas­tric ir­ri­ta­tion or even food poi­son­ing. The use of such chem­i­cals as ripen­ing agents has been con­sid­ered haz­ardous by food safety author­i­ties and is not per­mis­si­ble un­der In­dian laws. The chem­i­cal, which ripens man­goes within hours, is banned in most parts of the world. How­ever, it is eas­ily avail­able in our coun­try. Sev­eral stud­ies have shown that Cal­cium Car­bide is car­cino­genic and can cause sev­eral dis­or­ders in a nor­mal hu­man body.

What could be the ob­jec­tive be­hind such mal­prac­tice? Largely, it is aimed to cut short the time to man­age the de­mand and sup­ply chain, but it also of­fers mon­e­tary ben­e­fits to the flouters. A mango loses al­most 7%-10% mois­ture un­der nat­u­ral ripen­ing process, which re­duces its weight and may im­pact its mar­ket re­al­iza­tion. In or­der to make an easy buck, these wrong do­ers re­sort to such uneth­i­cal tac­tics with­out once think­ing of the harm their prac­tices pose to con­sumers’ health.

An­other as­pect to pon­der upon is that the nat­u­ral ripen­ing of man­goes is a time- tak­ing process and re­quires a pe­riod of few days. In or­der to trig­ger this nat­u­ral process, a ded­i­cated in­fra­struc­ture of ripen­ing cham­bers is nec­es­sary but that in­volves sig­nif­i­cant in­vest­ment.

Man­goes have a rich le­gacy and are known for their nu­tri­tive value. But in to­day’s en­vi­ron­ment, they are also a cause of con­cern. As the mango sea­son breaks in, it chal­lenges the de­mand­sup­ply mech­a­nism, leav­ing room for uneth­i­cal ways to man­age de­mand up­swings.

So as a nor­mal con­sumer, one should be watch­ful of such uneth­i­cal and sharp prac­tices. Man­goes ripened through the uneth­i­cal way lose their sheen, taste, aroma and nu­tri­tional value. But the fruits can be pol­ished to give them a glossy ve­neer. It is there­fore dif­fi­cult for con­sumers to even iden­tify ar­ti­fi­cially ripened man­goes. The best way to savour your favourite fruit is to opt for semi-ripened man­goes and let them ripen at home. And the eas­i­est way to iden­tify the right mango and to as­sess if it is fully ma­ture is by check­ing its shoul­der, which should be swollen. Also, the mango you choose should be free from decay, in­sect in­fes­ta­tion, sap burn, hail dam­age, shriv­els, cut skin, etc. In ad­di­tion, you can ap­ply a small amount of pres­sure on the fruit to de­ter­mine its hard­ness. In other words, the buy­ing de­ci­sion needs take into ac­count fac­tors like the fruit’s outer ap­pear­ance and aroma rather than merely its glow­ing skin.

After you are done with the se­lec­tion of man­goes, you can nat­u­rally ripen them at home by sim­ply wrap­ping them in a sheet of pa­per and stor­ing them in a tray or a box kept in am­bi­ent room tem­per­a­ture. You should then cover the man­goes with news­pa­pers or a sheet of cloth. After three days, your safe ma­tured man­goes will be ready for savour­ing.

In­dia’s food safety author­ity has also no­ti­fied the mea­sures to en­sure the safe­ness of man­goes through eth­i­cal ways of ripen­ing by us­ing ‘Eth­yl­ene’, which is a nat­u­ral ripen­ing agent and ac­cel­er­ates the ripen­ing process. It is im­por­tant to note that eth­yl­ene has no ad­verse ef­fect on our health as well as on the fruits ripened by it, which are safe for con­sump­tion. But these mea­sures are fol­lowed by only a hand­ful of play­ers from the or­gan­ised sec­tor. As in the case of the high level of aware­ness against the harm­ful use of al­co­hol and cig­a­rettes to the hu­man body, it’s high time now to cre­ate a sim­i­lar kind of aware­ness against slow poi­sons like cal­cium car­bide. The writer is Busi­ness Head – Safal Re­tail. Views ex­pressed are per­sonal.

In­dia’s food safety author­ity has also no­ti­fied the mea­sures to en­sure the safe­ness of man­goes through eth­i­cal ways of ripen­ing us­ing ‘Eth­yl­ene’, which is a nat­u­ral ripen­ing agent and ac­cel­er­ates the ripen­ing process.

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