Tuesday, April 23, 2013


A recent report from Tamilnadu revealed a shocking practice being perpetrated by the Mango traders there using dangerous pesticides for ripening the fruit! This is the first time one hears about use of pesticides for fruit ripening and if it is true this must be based on "innovation" by the unscrupulous traders for making a fast buck. From where they got this knowledge is still a mystery and horticulture scientists must probe this development further to bring out the dangers inherent in such devious practices. It is known that acetylene generated using Calcium Carbide chemical and moisture is widely practiced all over the country basically for giving a highly attractive (tempting?) red color to Mango though the consumer realizes the mistake only after cutting open the fruit and eating! Though this is illegal, due to lax vigilance by safety authorities in every state, this despicable practice goes on unchecked. The new development of using life threatening pesticides as ripening agents if true has far reaching implications on the well being of consumers. Here is a take on this new revelations.   

 Food safety officials, in Erode, on Friday seized three tonnes of artificially ripened mangoes sprayed with organophosphate based insecticide, an artificial ripening agent. The compound is toxic and is part of the same chemical family of compounds that are found in various harmful pesticides and even nerve gas agents. "Based on a tip off, we raided the shops and confiscated the artificially ripened mangoes. They were sprayed with pesticide for quick ripening which is being widely used as a substitute for calcium carbide these days," said G Rameshkumar, designated officer, Food Safety and Drug Administration Department, Erode. The artificially ripened mangoes were seized from three fruit warehouses in Nethaji whole sale fruit market in Erode. Officials claimed the traders were spraying pesticide on the mangoes to ensure the entire bunch becomes ripe within five to six days. They acknowledged it difficult to identify fruits ripened by spraying the pesticide which is available in the open market at Rs 1200 per litre. "These artificially ripened fruits have a pink tinge on their outer skin but that cannot be the only factor to confirm the presence of the toxic artificial ripening agent," Rameshkumar added.

While in many developing countries traders indulge in such malpractices, look at the consumer response to these prevalent activities of the trade. Most consumers do not bother to check the quality of mango and go for cheap ones attracted by the appearance and price. Lessons are never learned and memories are short which is exploited by vendors to the hilt. The tendency to patronize street vendors is very common in India as consumers have the misconception that they can get a better bargain but these vendors invariably have weighing contraptions "doctored" to deliver 20% to 40% less than what is offered! Fruit buying is an ability very few consumers have and in many cases, after paying exorbitant prices, they realize that what they bought was not mature or rotten inside or have othr concealed defects forcing them to throw them away in disgust. This is where the organized retailers and the government sponsored marketing organizations can play a constructive role as they have a reputation to guard. It is time that a universally accepted standard branding is introduced that will guarantee the quality of fruits available in the market as that exists in the US. Probably National Horticulture Board must address this issue with imaginative and visionary foresight.  

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