How Does Calcium Carbide Ripen Fruits?
Unscrupulous traders use the chemical to cash in on the soaring demand for mangoes, even if it means putting unsuspecting consumers at risk.
For reasons of safe transportation of fruits, mangoes, bananas etc are picked before they ripen fully. Slightly green harvested mangoes are subjected to small containers of calcium carbide (CaC2) with a plastic covering.
CaC2 reacts with the moisture in the air to release acetylene gas, which is like ethyleneis — a chemical substance produced by fruits to accelerate the normal process of fruit maturation — is a ripening hormone.
Industrial-grade calcium carbide contains arsenic and phosphorus, and its use for the purpose of ripening is illegal in many countries.
Experts say carbide can damage kidney, heart and liver and can also cause ulcer and gastric problems. Calcium carbide may have a harmful effect on brain, lungs and other vital organs. Toxic and carcinogenic – it is especially harmful for children.
Popularly known as masala, calcium carbide is used extensively to ripen mangoes, bananas, papayas, apples and plums. Calcium carbide is cheap. One kg of this chemical costs Rs 25-30, which can ripen 10 tons of fruit.
Using calcium carbide is also a less cumbersome procedure. All that a trader has to do is wrap a small quantity of calcium carbide in a paper packet and keep it near mangoes/bananas.
This box is kept in a closed space for one or two days. Due to the moisture content in the fruit, heat and acetylene gas are produced and that hastens the ripening process. Ripening starts within 24 to 48 hours.
What can you do to be safe?
Do not buy fruits when these arrive at markets before their normal season. These are in all likelihood artificially ripened for quicker profits. Keep fruits under running water for a few minutes, so that the chemicals are washed away. Peel fruits well before consuming.
Is there a way to spot artificially ripened fruit?
Black spots on mango skin – such fruit is overly soft and less tasty. Artificially ripened fruit also has a shorter shelf life. Such mangoes are raw at the core and you may also find bubbles around the seed. Fruit ripened with calcium carbide may have multi-colored patches. Such mangoes develop red, yellow and green patches. Artificially ripened mangoes are green outside but yellow inside. Fruits that have a uniform color are more likely to have been artificially ripened.