Ice manufacturers have said that they cannot meet the approved water quality standards for making ice because of the expense involved in installing water treatment units.
Ice plants depend on water supplied by tanker lorries or drawn from borewells as the water provided by the Kerala Water Authority is grossly inadequate to meet their needs.
“The ground water may contain iron, formalin and ammonium at some places, which would find their way into ice,” said T.G. R. Shenoy, president of the All Kerala Ice Manufacturers’ Association.
Water drawn from borewells near burial grounds can contain traces of formalin. Ammonium may be present in areas where there are waste and plastic dumping yards. Traces of chlorides can be detected in water drawn from wells dug in coastal areas. Ice manufacturers cannot afford to install water filtering and treatment units for removing impurities. The strict enforcement of the Food Safety Act would lead to the closure of the ice plants in the State, he said.
The association launched a strike on Monday protesting against the crackdown of the Food Safety Authority against the ice plants found using chemically contaminated water. The authorities had closed down 12 plants in Ernakulam and four in Thrissur.
The agitation has also hit the harbours of the State and the fishing industry. The leaders of the association have sought the intervention of the State government for ironing out the issue.
While admitting the use of untreated water for making ice, Mr. Shenoy said ice for direct human consumption was made from good quality water provided by some government agencies. While a 50kg ice slab used for storing fish is priced at Rs.60, the ice for human consumption costs Rs.80. The installation of water treatment facilities at ice plants would lead to a steep hike in ice price.
Water quality experts say that the ice which comes into contact with food substances, including fish and for direct consumption, shall only be made using potable water.
According to M.K. Mukundan, director, Council for Food Development and Research, Konni, law does not make any distinction regarding the quality of water used for storing fish and human consumption. Ice manufacturers are supposed to use only potable water for making ice. A water filtering plant capable of filtering around one lakh litres a day and consisting of a sand filter, chlorination unit and a charcoal filter would cost around Rs.3 lakh, he said.