Watch out for ‘unnaturally bright’ watermelons, mangoes, warn experts

“Fruits with pale or translucent hues, such as strawberries, grapes, melons, and cherries, are more likely to be targets for artificial colouring,” Edwina emphasised.
For representational purposes
For representational purposes

BENGALURU: Watermelon and mangoes, the most-awaited, favoured fruits of the season, are currently found to be adulterated’, health experts have cautioned. This year, owing to low yield, mangoes are being artificially ripened using calcium carbide, while watermelons are injected with erythrosin B, a red dye, to speed up the ripening process and provide the fruit with a pleasing red hue. With multiple fruit fairs currently being held in the city, experts have flagged certain clues such as uniformly coloured fruits, bright appearance, and consistent size, indicating potential chemical presence.

Edwina Raj, Head of Services - Clinical Nutrition and Dietetics, Aster CMI Hospital highlighted that unnaturally bright or uniform colours on fruit, along with coloured wax coatings, can indicate the use of calcium carbide to accelerate ripening, particularly in mangoes. This chemical releases harmful substances such as acetylene gas and traces of arsenic compounds, suggesting artificial intervention. “Fruits with pale or translucent hues, such as strawberries, grapes, melons, and cherries, are more likely to be targets for artificial colouring,” Edwina emphasised.

She explained that artificial colours typically do not alter a fruit’s inherent taste, but can mask spoilage or poor quality. Therefore, people must look for overly saturated colours which may indicate artificial colouring. Unlike hybrid fruits, artificially coloured fruits are often ‘unnaturally bright’ and ‘uniformly coloured’ across their entire surface. Moreover, carbide-ripened fruits lack extra juice content and may cause a mild burning sensation in the mouth, frequent thirst, vomiting, irritability, and dizziness.

Edwina advised that before consumption, fruits must be washed thoroughly and soaked in water to remove surface waxes or potential colour residues and children, who often just pick things and directly consume, must be educated about unusually vibrant fruit colours.

Dr Nasiruddin G, Consultant - Internal Medicine, Fortis Hospital said the strongest scientific evidence regarding food dyes is their association with hyperactivity in children. Multiple studies have demonstrated that food dyes can enhance hyperactivity in children with ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder – marked by an ongoing pattern of inattention and/or hyperactivity-impulsivity that interferes with functioning or development), and those without, though sensitivity levels may differ.

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