Toxin Laced Fish Are Being Consumed In At least 5 States
Fish industry experts say that formalin (formaldehyde) is sprayed or injected and fish are dipped in it to preserve it. This helps the fish stay fresh for a longer time. Usually, when people buy fish, they check the redness of the gills for freshness. The redder the gills, the fresher the fish. Formalin keeps the gills red for a longer time.
A few weeks after formalin laced fish were seized from Kerala and Andhra Pradesh, an exclusive report by The Hindu exposed how the poison has reached Chennai too.
The Kerala state food safety officials on June 24 seized 6,000 kg of fish preserved using formalin at the inter-State border check-post at Walayar in Palakkad. The seized fish — prawn/shrimp was brought from Andhra Pradesh and a rapid detection test revealed the chemical. The officials suspected that importers from Kerala were lacing fish with formaldehyde for better preservation.
Published on July 9, The Hindu found that in Chennai that 11 out of the 30 fish samples they collected from the markets in Chennai was laced with formalin. The fish were purchased from the Chintadripet and Kasimedu fish markets.
State governments stand
A day after the Hindu report, the Assam government banned the import of fish from other states for a period of 10 days starting July 10. Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare Pijush Hazarika said that imported fish collected from various markets around the state had traces of formalin.
He said that imports would only be allowed after no traces of formalin are found in the fish and if importers assure that the carcinogenic substance was not used any longer. Anyone violating the ban or found using formalin to preserve fish for a longer period would face punitive legal action with arrests and jail terms ranging from two to seven years and fines of up to Rs 10 lakh, Hazarika warned, reported Firstpost.
On June 25, in Kohima, Nagaland, authorities seized Rs 10 lakh worth fish that was found contaminated with the chemical.
Food and Drug Administration in Goa raided fish markets to test the samples. Fish traders gave up their work to protest against the raid. The coastal town faces a shortage of fish due to the strike. The situation eased after the officials said that formalin was present but within permissible limit.
Tamil Nadu fisheries minister D. Jayakumar after the Hindu report said that formaldehyde cannot be used at any cost. “Since The Hindu has brought the [Chennai] test results to our notice, we will lift samples [from fish markets] and conduct tests. We will not hesitate to take strict action against those indulging in such acts,” Mr Jayakumar said.
What is Formalin?
Formalin is a form of formaldehyde, which is classified as a carcinogenic to humans. Consuming even 30 ml of formalin, that contains about 37% of formaldehyde can kill an adult. Formalin is often used in morgues to preserve dead bodies. Continuous ingestion of formalin can lead to cancer, as it releases toxins into the body.