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The Mango love - Artificial Ripening (Why how Ill-effects?) & how to spot artifically ripened mangoes

Posted on Apr 09 2016


We all love Mangoes don’t we? It is this love for mangoes which is partially responsible for majority of the industry artificially ripening mangoes. Every year in the mango season, it is common to see a debate on chemical ripening, calcium carbide, FDA raids, and some traders saying it is not possible to ripen mangoes otherwise.

Why the race?

The issue of artificial ripening happens because of the way market is structured. Mango that comes into the market first gets sold at higher price. It’s the race to get the mangoes to the market early that is making people involved in the mango trade to not only use pesticides in production but artificially ripen the mango and get to the market before the natural actual season begins. It’s a pure demand supply thing and corrupt business practices with the motive of making extra buck. In the beginning of the mango season people have been waiting for mangoes for long. The actual season begins in April end. But to meet this demand of people who had been waiting for more than 6-8 months get the fruit to the market 1-2 months in advance i.e. Feb end itself. They are able to willfully charge customers. This happens across various mango varieties as well throughout the mango season. Artificial ripening is also done to achieve faster and more uniform ripening characteristics.

What is ripening?

Ripening in general is a physiological process which makes the fruit edible, palatable and nutritious. In nature fruits ripen after attainment of proper maturity by a sequence of physiological and biochemical events and the process is irreversible. Whether fruits ripen on the plant or after harvest, the general changes associated with ripening process is softening of fruit, change in color and development of characteristic aroma and flavor. There is also reduction in sourness and increase in sweetness of fruit. Usually fruits produce ethylene gas, a plant hormone naturally that ripens the fruits.

What is artificial ripening and how it is done?

With the development of fruit trade the fruits are sent to distant places, requiring several days in ordinary or refrigerated transportation and only firm and mature fruits are least damaged during marketing. The fruits are ripened at the destination markets before retailing and hence harvesting of fruits before they are fully ripe has become essential.

Unsaturated hydrocarbons such as acetylene, ethylene etc. can promote ripening and induce color changes effectively. The most commonly used chemical for artificial ripening is Calcium Carbide CaC2 and is popularly known as masala. It is a point to note that calcium carbide does not ‘ripen’ mangoes. It is important for customers to understand that ripening is a biochemical reaction. When the fruit reaches maturity, it starts producing ethylene gas, along with slowly breaking down acids in the fruit, and converting starch into sugar. It is not humanly possible to accelerate this natural biochemical reaction in the fruit.

What calcium carbide does for mangoes is that it produces acetylene gas when it comes in contact with water, which creates heat. Acetylene’s main application is in welding and as a fuel. When generated from calcium carbide, acetylene contains toxic impurities that affect the neurological system. When acetylene fills up the box of mangoes, it heats the fruit from outside. Mangoes start losing their green colour and turn yellow from outside.

Mangoes turn yellow, but do not ripen internally. Some starch near the skin of mangoes is broken into sugar and then mangoes take a uniform yellow colour. For the customer, the mango looks yellow, he/she thinks it is ripe and buys it at whatever cost. However, the taste is not what the customer expecting for the price she paid. Such mangoes taste pathetic.

Ill Effects?

Calcium Carbide is a dangerous and corrosive chemical. Carbide ripened fruits on consumption cause several harmful effects to human health. As discussed earlier, it has cancer causing properties and contains traces of arsenic and phosphorous hydride. The early symptoms of arsenic or phosphorous poisoning include vomiting diarrhea with or without blood, burning sensation of chest and abdomen, thirst, weakness, difficulty in swallowing, irritation or burning in the eyes and skin, permanent eye damage ulcers on the skin sore throat cough and shortness of breath. High exposure may cause a buildup of fluids in the lungs.  It may cause stomach upset because the alkaline substance is an irritant that erodes the mucosal tissues in the stomach and disrupts intestinal functions. As calcium carbide imitates acetylene gas it may affect the neurological system by including prolonged hypoxia. Free radicals from carbide play a major role in the ageing process as well as in the onset of cancer, heart disease, stroke, arthritis and perhaps allergies. If pregnant women consume these artificially ripened fruits, it can cause miscarriages and developmental abnormalities if the child is born.

What should you do?

We recommend waiting for the peak mango season to buy the summer fruit.  Mangoes enter the market in the end of March, but at this time most are usually artificially ripened.  The consumers should wait till the end of April to get the naturally ripened ones. Also one should know and understand what varieties are available during which month and follow the above advice throughout the season.  OR just go for the Organic naturally ripened mangoes sourced from trusted farmers and suppliers.

How to spot artificially ripened mangoes?

Artificially ripened mangoes unlike naturally ripened ones will not have a good aroma, mangoes will have yellow outer skin but the tissue inside will not be ripe, the fruit sugars remain immature, it does not taste sweet. They will be dry and less juicy as compared to naturally ripened ones, which would have sucked enough water from the tree. Fruits that have a uniform color are more likely to have been artificially ripened.


Artificially Ripened with Calcium Carbide

Naturally Ripened Fruit

Weight per fruit


Mostly Good unless the variety si such


Mildly Good






Not very attractive but uniformly colored

Attractive but not uniformly colored

Shelf Life

Shorter, black blotches appear on the skin of the fruit in 2-3 days



In-core sour, mildly pleasant

Sweet, pleasant

Where to get Organic naturally ripened mangoes?

There are many trusted sources. We at Organic Express of course can supply to you. You may contact us here with your requirement.

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