View Full Version : What they don't tell you about bananas

08-11-2003, 01:52 PM
Bunches of yellow and evenly ripened banana, hanging heavy is a sure feast for the eyes. It looks yummy and you had to have it. But before you peel that banana - ponder for a moment - as going bananas might shorten your life. That’s because the fruits flooding our market are being artificially ripened with a hazardous chemical.
The culprit Calcium Carbide (known locally as Kapai) contains traces phosphorous and arsenic. They are mainly used for welding because of the intense heat it generates. And if by chance it ends up in your tummy, it’s known to have caused ulcer, mouth sores and diarrhoea. In the fruit industry, the workers that physically handle the carbide stones, usually complains about numbness, pain and weakness in their hands.
At the Pasar Borong in KL, I asked Yusof, a burly man with huge hands about the use of carbide. He stared at me with his solemn face, and looked as if he was going to break out laughing. But somehow he maintains a straight face.
“I bet” he bragged, “no one has tasted a naturally ripened banana. And I’m not talking big. Show me. If you can show me anyone, I’ll chop off my head.” I’m not too confident of winning this bet. So I turn my attention to Wong, a third generation wholesaler.
“It’s very easy for you to say ‘Kapai is no good’ but we have to cari makan.” He explains, “We can’t afford to let it sit for days before ripening. Actually, I think Kapai is not the problem. You are the problem.” He paused and turned, seeing no one’s around he whispered. “Got Kapai or no Kapai - No one can tell the difference. So what’s the problem?” Then slowly he raises his voice, “And don’t you dare say kapai is dangerous. We’ve been doing it since the Japanese occupation and no one has died yet.” I could sense that my questions were not welcome. I stopped the queries; the tension lifted.
Though the law here is silent on the use of carbide. India, US and other EU countries have completely banned the use of carbide as a ripening agent. I think it’s time the Health Ministry clears the air. Because if they don’t its akin to saying: “until something drastic happens, the fruit sellers should be allowed to do any idiotic thing they want.” So say what you like, ultimately we’re responsible for our own health. And to me the choice is clear. Ever since that day I’ve taken to ripening my own bananas - the all-natural way. I wouldn’t want to mess with carbide, law or no law.

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12-11-2003, 08:41 AM
What is written here is true. It is impossible to ship ripe bananas from say South America and still hope to have them still edible. However the same goes even for mangoes. I did a random check with some of the fruit sellers in KL and they say in Cantonese they use something which roughly translates to "rotten petroleum". Petrol fumes can cause all those symptoms described. One point to note however is that the use of this "rotten petroleum" is to generate enough constant warmth to ripen the fruit. It does not get into contact with the fruit or at least that is what I am led to believe. You can actually buy ripe bananas that is not ripen using artificial means but these would be the local bananas like pisang tanduk and pisang emas. They are usually having black spots on their skin and is not really pleasing to the eye which is why they are usually not sold in places like Carrefour but you might still find them in pasar borong. Bananas that is ripen using artificial means normally has no blemish on the skin as no microbes can survive the petro-chemical fumes. Check out what I am saying myself. For me, I prefer to have a papaya or watermelon anyway.

12-11-2003, 10:40 AM
i refused to eat tropical fruits in europe. the bananas there are pasty, not sweet, awful. they're very 'hardy' too. i always noticed that fruits that are too hardy are quite artificial. most fruits from the wild tend to rot and give way quickly, that's the way of the world. but the bananas there.... yuck... and they don't sell them by bunches, you buy those massive phillipino exports one by one.

watermelons in europe are awful. i was so shocked that the "very tasty, sweet" watermelon my hosts served me in italy was the worst you'd get in kl. i didn't want to be rude, so i just ate it.

but God, when i brought my fiancee here and showed him what real tropical fruit is, he clamours for more!

he loves durian too. odd for a westerner, but he really loves good durian kampung. i have a packet stinking up the fridge as we speak...

fruits... another thing malaysians should be thankful for.


12-11-2003, 11:50 AM
Smell in the fridge? Nothing some good old sodium bicarbonate cannot solve. Or simply just some baking powder. I believe it is best to eat fruits where it was grown. When it is transported to another country, it has to go through some process to make it keep or tasty. I know some unscrupulous fruit seller would immerse their watermelon in sugar syrup to sweeten them. Taste really artifically sweet.

12-11-2003, 12:57 PM
They use different terms to describe ripening with carbide. Some will say "Fong Teen" which literally means put electricity. To be fair, the fruit sellers don't intend to apply carbide directly into the fruits. But these things happen. They usually wrap the carbide stones with newspapers held together with rubber bands/tapes. And often they will use that stuff for 2 or 3 sessions of ripening. By that time the carbide stones have been reduced to dust and the newspaper torn. That's why sometimes you see fruits stained with carbide ash.

Ray Cheng

12-11-2003, 01:02 PM
I suppose the standard "soak the fruits in water first" applies even for fruits with skins we don't eat. With exception of durians of course. Durians have to ripe and fall off the tree in order for it to taste nice. Thailand durians shipped to HK in its unripe state and then artificially ripen there taste horrible. Lacks the "stink" as well.

12-11-2003, 01:52 PM
thai durians s*ck.

they even ship them to london, joecool. no stink, the green is all wrong, and obviously no flavour.

one durian.... 40 pounds.... forget it man! for rm 240 i can buy an orchard :D


12-11-2003, 04:10 PM
Yes but if you try Thai durian in Thailand, you find that the Channee and others taste a lot different. Guess that's what happens if you pluck the fruit from the tree before it ripens. Good way to find out if the tree is free of pesticide is if squirrels actually get to the fruit first before you.