KATHMANDU: If you think that the succulent, colourful, and glossy fruits and vegetables that are on display in shops in the city are your favourite picks, you are gravely mistaken.

Mango, banana, guava, litchi, papaya, jack-fruit and pineapple that are now being sold like hot cakes in the city are artificially made to look ripe and shiny, Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC) has unveiled here today.

“Artificially ripe fruits bear visible white streaks on the skin. While, naturally ripe fruits bear the mix colour of green and yellow,” Pramod Koirala, senior food researcher at DFTQC, said, cautioning the customers.

“Coloured fruits and vegetables look attractive to the eyes but are posing threats to public health,” Koirala warned.

The DFTQC has found that, most often, the suppliers and farmers apply Calcium Carbide, a chemical, to the fruits even before they are ripe, just to give them a glossy look and make them appear naturally ripe, to attract picky customers.

Calcium Carbide is a grey black, lump shaped solid or crystal, which has slight garlic-like odour.

Considering its adverse health implications, the use of the Calcium Carbide had long been banned in many countries, including Nepal.

But the chemical has made its comeback to the country in the absence of strong regulatory and monitoring mechanisms.

“Although it has been banned under the Food Act- 2023 BS and it is punishable by law, only a few shopkeepers or suppliers seem to be taking it seriously,” said Koirala.

There is also a lack of awareness on the health implications of such chemical among the consumers, explained Koirala, requesting the stoppers to go for fruits which aren’t uniformly yellow or are artificially ripe.

Similarly, vegetables such as tomatoes are being treated

with Calcium Carbide to ripe them faster.

Koirala also suggested that washing and peeling the skinned fruits before consumption

could minimise the risks of

health hazards associated with the chemical.

The intake of Calcium Carbide cause burn and irritation in

the eyes and skin, severe shortness of breath, sore cough

and wheezing.

“The immediate symptoms of the chemical which contain arsenic and phosphorus are vomiting and diarrhoea with or without blood,” Koirala added.

The DoFTQC is doing groundwork to promote the use of smoke and ethylene gas to ripe the fruits and vegetables, instead. “Use of smoke and ethylene gas to ripe them faster in the air-tights could be an option as they are less hazardous to health,” he said adding that the technology was more expensive and less feasible as compared to calcium carbide.

The department has also written to Kalimati Fruits and vegetables market Development Committee to take vigil at the unscrupulous supplies to combat unethical trade practices.