On April 22, 2015, based on a tip-off, the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) seized and destroyed approximately 12 tonnes of mangoes that had been ripened artificially. The FDA inspectors raided a godown at Sirsaim and seized three varieties of mangoes. These included Alphonso, Pairi and Mankurad, the first two varieties being procured from Ratnagiri, while the third, locally. The FDA Senior Food Safety Inspector indicated that the guilty vendor had purchased the mangoes in bulk to sell them at the Shirgao Zatra in Goa, scheduled to start the following day. He further indicated that they had to destroy the seized mangoes immediately, as there was no place to store them.
The chemical used to force-ripen the mangoes, called Ethrel®, is harmful for human consumption. Scientifically known as Ethephon (conc. 240g/L), Ethrel® is a liquid plant growth regulator, manufactured by Bayer, which is marked as “Dangerous” and “Corrosive” on the Product Label. Moreover, as per international regulations, it is considered a crime to use the chemical for unspecified purposes, which was exactly done in the present case. It is advisable that the international regulations be followed in India also. The FSSAI strictly prohibits the use of a similar chemical, namely, carbide (acetylene) gas for artificially ripening fruits, including mangoes.
The FDA team had also seized the chemical bottles. Four were empty and two were still full. Mangoes dipped in the chemical can ripen with 48 hours, lacks any creases thereby looks attractive, doesn’t become soft and soggy upon storage, and decay is also delayed appreciably, making this chemical very attractive for errant fruit vendors.
The FDA inspectors have registered an offence against the erring mango vendor, and investigations are underway. This is the largest seizure since two years ago, when 25 tonnes of force-ripened mangoes were seized from Vasco da Gama, Goa.