A European Union ban on Indian mangoes, first announced in mid-March, finally came into force on May 1. The ban is likely to last till December 2015, and was imposed because authorities in Brussels found 207 consignments of fruits and vegetables infested with fruit flies, which they believe could infest and damage European crops.

In addition to keeping the Konkan’s famed Alphonso mangoes out of European stores, the ban includes other vegetables like brinjal and bitter gourd.

So far, the widely-reported news of this ban has sparked two distinct reactions in India. Traders and farmers in the mango business are indignant because they are set to lose big business – the United Kingdom alone imports mangoes worth 6.3 million pounds annually. But middle-class consumers are rejoicing at the fact that local markets will now be flooded with cheaper mangoes.

But if the EU found the presence of fruit flies in Indian produce, wouldn’t it make the fruits unsafe for Indian consumers as well? With the ban officially coming into effect, it’s a question that some people have begun to ask.

However, agriculture and trade experts say that Indians have no need to worry about the pests irking EU officials. These pests aren't a hazard to human health but Europeans fear that the fruit flies could damage crops on the Continent.

“The fruit flies ,which lay eggs in mango flowers, are native to India, but are alien to other countries,” said K Vijay Raghavan, a developmental biologist at the National Centre for Biological Sciences.

Whether an alien species of pest could adversely affect crops in Europe is debatable, says Vijay Raghavan, because alien species that are introduced in new places are more likely to die out and not proliferate. “But each country has legitimate concerns about what foods are allowed to enter their borders.”

Within India, however, the greatest damage fruit flies could cause is to leave some mangoes pulpy and rotten.

“Fruit flies do not make mangoes unsafe for us, as long as we clean fruits well and avoid damaged portions,” said Devinder Sharma, a Chandigarh-based food and trade policy analyst.

But he added that there are other aspects about the quality of food that Indians should to worry about.

Sharma was referring to the high levels of adulteration and pesticides in the food that is grown in India as well as imported from other countries. Just this week, for instance, the Food Safety and Drug Administration busted an adulteration racket in Chennai, where vendors had used the poisonous calcium carbide to artificially ripen 1.7 tonnes of mangoes.

While these mangoes were confiscated and destroyed by the government body, Indians rarely seem to realise the risks that their locally-grown food might pose.

“Many countries don’t allow Indian exports – like Iran, which does not import wheat from India – because of certain harmful pesticides used on them,” said Rafiq Ahmed, president of the Federation of Indian Export Organisations. “But we use those pesticides on our food anyway, even though it is not desirable.”

Said Sharma, “We have made a big deal about the EU banning our mangoes. But we should actually be making a fuss about the general quality of our own produce.”