Beware! Many street vendors are selling alphonso mangoes, which are 'fake' and artificially ripened using chemicals, under the pretext of selling Ratnagiri or Devgad alphonso
When boxes of Alphonso started appearing on Pune streets for sale early this week from coastal Konkan, people were pleasantly surprised at the early onset of the mango season.
However, the ‘king of fruits’ could not be savoured by many as State Food and Drug Administration (FDA) officials had swooped on the vendors following complaints that the mangoes were harmful to health as calcium carbide (CC) had been used to ripen them artificially. What is more stunning is neither are these alphonsos from Konkan region, nor they alphonsos. This look-alike variety of mangoes is from Chennai and Mangalore whereas the original alphonso mango belongs to the Konkan region of Maharashtra.
Scores of boxes containing dozens of mangoes smeared with CC powder have been seized and destroyed in warehouses since the FDA inspectors in coordination with their Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) counterparts, launched a concerted drive a couple of days back.
Interestingly, street vendors are selling these so-called ‘alphonsos’ for Rs300 per dozen whereas the ongoing rate of 'original' alphonso from the Konkan region is between Rs1,100 to Rs1,300 per dozen.
Mangoes worth over Rs70,000 have so far been destroyed in the drive against the vendors involved in the malpractice and the FDA operation is being extended to the entire Pune division comprising Kolhapur, Sangli, Satara, Solapur and Ahmednagar, Sanjay Patil, joint commissioner, FDA Pune, told PTI.
"We had come across isolated cases of artificial ripening of mangoes put on sale last summer. But this time the hazardous practice by unscrupulous elements seems to have assumed a greater magnitude as our combing operations to detect such fruit stocks are continuing," said Mr Patil.
The use of CC, available in the form of a white powder, is banned under the FDA Act as an agent for artificial ripening of fruit as it entails health hazards affecting nerves, eyes, skin and lungs.
At one of the storages used to pile up the mangoes, the FDA inspectors on 17th March stumbled upon a packet containing about 2.5kg CC powder, a sample of which has been sent for chemical analysis in FDA labs.
"A lab report is awaited to confirm chemical analysis of CC. Once that is confirmed, we can initiate legal action by filing a criminal offence against those involved," he added.
So far, the FDA-PMC squad of food inspectors numbering around 25 have seized mangoes thus ripened, mainly from Guruwar Peth and Shukrawar Peth areas of the city but they believe that the dubious activity is rampant in many other parts.
Interestingly, FDA officials acknowledged that they got the clue about the large-scale hazardous artificial ripening of mangoes using CC powder through a written complaint filed by Dilip Bhairat, a Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) activist who has also approached PMC on the issue.
An MNS activist said most of the vendors who were involved in the malpractice came to Pune from Mumbai and sold the artificially-ripened mango stocks, originally purchased from Mangalore.
The Mangalore fruit variety resembles the popular ‘Ratnagiri hapus’ (alphonso), that comes from the Konkan region.
"This is a big racket run by anti-social and unscrupulous elements to the detriment of local traders in mangoes as these fake alphonsos are sold in large quantities at a cheaper price cheating the customers. Many vendors hawk their stocks going around residential societies," he claimed.
Meanwhile, FDA officials have appealed to people to bring to their notice sales of mango suspected of artificial ripening.