What made me write this article is the notorious calcium carbide that has been in the news this whole summer. It also goes by the name ‘masala’ in India. Mango, the national fruit of India, has been reportedly been treated with this chemical. Tamil Nadu Agricultural University’s lecture on chemicals used in ripening shines some light on this chemical. It says, “Calcium carbide release acetylene which on hydrolysis hasten ripening process. ” It is a carcinogenic agent and banned under PFA Rules, 1955.
Clause 2.3.5 of the Food Safety and Standards (Prohibition and Restrictions on Sales) Regulations, 2011, prohibits sale of fruits which have been artificially ripened by use of acetylene gas commonly known as carbide gas produced from Calcium Carbide. – PIB, Govt. of India
A MSDS (Material Safety Data Sheet) provided on the website for the State of New Jersey has information about how calcium carbide looks and what effects it has on our health.
Organizations are at help and they have jotted down a list of do’s and don’t’s for our convenience. Before we do this, let’s take a look at the most commonly used chemicals in fruits and vegetables we eat.
There are three categories of it:
This is the visible/invisible chemical on the outer side of a fruit or a veggie. If you ask what the white coating/residue/stuff is on your grapes? That might be a harmless coating called bloom, which is naturally produced by these grapes for its own protection. But the residue can also be a pesticide, so, rinse it well.
Whatever contaminants are present in the soil, air or water are taken up by plants. Does mercury in fishes ring a bell? If not, you can watch a video here.
These include pesticides. The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has some advice for consumers. The Central Insecticide Board and Registration Committee (CIB& RC) has a list of pesticides which are banned, refused registration and restricted in use that you can refer to while using them.
Preservatives, food colors, artificial ripening agents such as calcium carbide, taste enhancers, food additives etc. If you have checked the label, you may have encountered with this phrase sometime ‘No added MSG’. MSG is monosodium glutamate. It is a flavor enhancer that can also be found in naturally occurring foods such as tomato. It goes by the trade name Ajinomoto, trademark of a food corporation in Japan. Many believe that when used in large quantities, it can cause health problems. FDA considers foods that contain MSG to be “generally recognized as safe”.
They used to put cocaine in Coca Cola. Vegetables were once routinely covered in deadly DDT. Ever wonder what poisons you eat that will make future generations look back in horror? – Infographic: Just How Dangerous Is The Dye In Your Food?
Are there ways to ripen fruits without using harmful substances? Affirmative. Brown paper bag method is used to ripen bananas.
It takes a lot more than just washing fruits and vegetables for them to be safely consumed. But there are a few simple tips that should not be taken for granted. Here’s a video by US FDA that describes these tips:
I hope it is never too late to remind ourselves that we are what eat.
For the love of farming, watch this 11 year old speak wise:
I absolutely agreed with everything he said, except he doesn’t live in India. There need to be solutions that are specific to India and its infrastructure. Do you have any in mind? I have two: vertical farming and hydroponics for healthy livestock feed (aka greenhouse fodder).