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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 desired.

“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 effects.
State Food and Drugs Control Administration (FDCA) has banned the use of ethephon last year, but fruit traders have now resorted to bethylene.

- 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.
Take care

- 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 above signs.

February 10, 2010

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