Artificially Ripened Fruits

In recent times there is much concern about artificial ripening of fruits in many parts of the world. Though fruits like mango naturally ripen in trees; some chemicals are used to ripen them artificially which hasten the ripening process. Ripe fruits are not suitable to carry and distribute as they get rotten. So fruit traders pick unripe fruits and use certain methods to increase the shelf life of them, which may come with many health hazards.



The fast ripening of fruits means they may contain various harmful properties. A commonly used agent in the ripening process is calcium carbide, a material most commonly used for welding purposes. Calcium carbide treatment of food is extremely hazardous because it contains traces of arsenic and phosphorous. Once dissolved in water, the carbide produces acetylene gas. Acetylene gas may affect the neurological system by inducing prolonged hypoxia, an oxygen deficiency in tissues. The findings include headache, dizziness, mood disturbances, sleepiness, mental confusion, memory loss, cerebral edema and seizures.

A strong reactive chemical, CaC2 has carcinogenic properties and is used in gas welding. Acetylene gas is flammable and explosive even in a low concentration. Besides, indiscriminate use of pesticides on different types of fruits can lead to poisonous effects. Due to lack of awareness and education, people consume chemically ripened fruits. Being cheap, 1 kg of this chemical is indiscriminately used in to induce artificial ripening of fruits.



As the fruits are sent to different places, requiring several days in ordinary or refrigerated transportation, only firm but mature fruits are least damaged. They are ripened at the destination markets before retailing. Using CaC2 is also a less cumbersome procedure. All that a trader has to do is to wrap a small quantity of CaC2 in a paper packet, and keep this packet near a pile or box of fruits. A chemical reaction takes place, because of moisture content in the fruit, heat and acetylene gas are produced, which hastens the ripening process. Calcium Carbide releases acetylene which almost works like ethylene in terms of speeding up the ripening process. Direct consumption of acetylene has been found to be detrimental as it reduces oxygen supply to the brain. Calcium Carbide is alkaline in nature and irritates the mucosal tissue in the abdominal region. Cases of stomach upset after eating carbide-ripened mangoes has been reported. Even though eating the carbide-ripened fruit does not lead to any allergic reaction instantly, seizure, headaches, sleepiness may be faced while applying these chemicals on the fruits. Impurities like arsenic and phosphorus found in industrial grade calcium carbide may cause serious health hazards when workers are in direct contact with these chemicals while applying the ripening agents. This may cause dizziness, frequent thirst, irritation in mouth and nose, weakness, permanent skin damage, difficulty in swallowing, vomiting, skin ulcer, and so forth. Higher exposure may cause undesired fluid buildup in lungs pulmonary edema.



The external color and the texture are usually taken under consideration when it comes to choosing fruits. The naturally ripened fruits are often uneven in color. It is advisable to choose fruits during the season when it turns ripe naturally, since a ripe fruit during off season may artificially ripen unless it is genetically ripened.

Sources: academia.edu, banglajol.info, sciencedirect.com