Even as the Kerala State Ice Manufacturers’ Association has called for an indefinite lockdown of ice plants from May 2 to protest the forced closure of several units by the Food Safety authorities, the Ernakulam district food safety officer on Tuesday ordered closure of four more.

Three ice plants at Pallippuram and one at Njarackal, which supplied ice blocks mainly to fishing boats, were ordered to be closed by the food safety officer, K. Ajith Kumar, on Tuesday. So far, ten ice plants catering to the fishing industry have been ordered shut.

Mr. Ajith Kumar told The Hindu that samples collected from these plants had traces of formalin and ammonium. The plants were shut down by invoking the emergency prohibition powers under the Food Safety and Standards Act, he said. Samples from 24 ice plants had been collected and so far lab results of ten were received. All of them tested positive for formalin and ammonium.

The ice manufacturers’ association, representing 460 ice plants across the State, has announced a lockdown from May 2 to protest what they call the ‘illegal and dictatorial’ closure of their plants. General secretary of the association K. Uthaman told The Hindu that nearly 20 ice plants in the State had been shut down. Of these, ten were in Ernakulam district, home to the largest number of ice plants in the State —roughly 100.

Mr. Uthaman denied that formalin was being used by ice-makers. He claimed that the ice made by the association members was not a ‘food item’ but an industrial product used as a preservative by the fishing industry. “We are selling our ice to the sea-going fishing boats and not to the fruit juice shops or bars,” Mr. Uthaman said. “If anybody is using our ice for a purpose other than as a preservative, it is not our fault.”

Mr. Ajith Kumar, rubbishing the association claim, said the harmful chemicals used in the ice to increase the shelf life of fish naturally got into the fish flesh and passed on to humans who ate it.

Use of formalin and ammonium in ice was illegal, he said.

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