Ripening Agents: The Altering of Taste
and Nutrition All For Convenience
Health consultants highly recommend fruits and salads in their prescriptions
and we take the best advantage of the availability of the range
of variety in the markets. But how close we are to nature, when
we are consuming these fruits is a very big question mark. Fruits
and vegetables are known to be possessing antioxidant and anti-aging
factors. If they are a source of harmful chemicals as well, then
are we heading towards fitness or otherwise?
In recent times, there is much concern about artificial ripening
of fruits. Though fruits like mango naturally ripen in trees;
some chemicals are used to ripen them artificially which hasten
the ripening process. Ripe fruits are not suitable to carry and
distribute as they get rotten. So traders pick unripe fruits and
use certain methods to increase their shelf life.
For many years, ethylene had been used as a fruit ripening agent,
but nowadays ethane, calcium carbide and ethephon are commonly
used for faster ripening. But inappropriate use of these chemicals
to ripen fruits is associated with many health hazards.
Ripening is a process in fruits that causes them to become edible.
Globally, the ripening is done through gas emission systems or
ethylene generator systems, depending on quality and shelf life
Fruits like bananas ripened through scientific ways will
have uniform colour, good taste and longer shelf life. The market
is evolving and awareness is slowly growing. Currently, small
volume of banana traded goes through scientific ripening process,
says B Thiagarajan, president, air-conditioning & refrigeration
products group, Blue Star Ltd, which offers gas emission ripening
systems as well as ethylene generator systems.
Ill-Effects of Artificial Ripening
- Ethylene is known to cause damage to the neurological system,
affects the eyes, skin, lungs, memory and leads to prolonged hypoxia
(lack of oxygen supply).
- Ethephon is a plant growth regulator. It promotes pre-harvest
ripening in apples, currants, blackberries, blueberries, cranberries,
morello cherries, citrus fruit, figs
, tomatoes, sugar beet and fodder beet seed crops, coffee, capsicum.
Ethephon is easily converted into ethylene and has the same harmful
State Food and Drugs Control Administration (FDCA) has banned
the use of ethephon last year, but fruit traders have now resorted
- Bethylene is not known to have any harmful effects but it alters
the taste and the nutritional value of fruits and also reduces
the shelf life of the fruits, if used beyond the recommended limits.
And most of the traders do use quantities of bethylene which are
much higher than the prescribed limits.
- Besides ripening agents, farmers also use many pesticides to
grow fruits and vegetables which are detrimental to our health.
- Wash your fruits and vegetables in a sink full of water in
which a tablespoon of salt is added with a lime squeezed in it.
Allow the fruits to float in the sink for 5-7 minutes before rinsing
them with plain water and then draining them in a colander. Allow
to dry and then consume.
- While selecting fruits, look for nail marks, punctures or powdered
applications on the fruits. Do not pick fruits with any of the
February 10, 2010