Formalin-laced fish seized

The State Food Safety wing officials during inspection on Sunday seized 6,000 kg of fish preserved using formalin (formaldehyde) at the inter-State border check-post at Walayar in Palakkad.

The seized fish — prawn/shrimp — had been brought in from Andhra Pradesh and preliminary examination using rapid detection strip tests, developed by the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT), revealed the presence of formalin in the fish.

Detailed analysis

Following this, samples were collected and sent for detailed analysis at the CIFT lab in Ernakulam, food safety officials said.

The inspections, as part of Operation Sagar Rani, were led by the Joint Food Safety Commissioner (Administration), along with a team of food safety intelligence officials from Kozhikode and Ernakulam and the district food safety squad in Palakkad. The team inspected 45 vehicles that were found to be transporting fish. Operation Sagar Rani had been launched by the Food Safety department last year to ensure the safety of fish sold in the market and to ensure that it was handled hygienically at the handling and distribution centres.

“Whenever the domestic availability of fish goes down during trawling ban in the State, we should suspect that such unscrupulous methods would be used to bring in fish from neighbouring States. Ammonia and formaldehyde are commonly used to increase the shelf life of fish. The strip test developed by CIFT can detect both chemicals,” said K. Anilkumar, Joint Commissioner of Food Safety.

Food Safety officials suspect that toxic preservatives are being used by people/traders in Kerala who are importing fish from neighbouring States. It is highly unlikely that traders from Andhra Pradesh are directly selling fish in Kerala after preserving it in formalin, they say.

Earlier too, the food safety wing has tried to monitor the quality of fish in the market by collecting samples and sending it for analysis .

“But at the time, rapid detection tests were not available. We had to collect samples and let the consignment go. By the time sample tests results arrived, the fish would have been sold in the retail market. About 16 % of the samples we were sending to the lab were later found to be contaminated. The rapid detection test kits were developed by CIFT in November last following a request from the State Fisheries department and we had purchased it,” Mr. Anilkumar said. Food Safety wing is planning to extend the use of the test kits to the retail markets too.

Senior officials said that the Commissioner of Food Safety department was in touch with his counterparts in other States too regarding the import of contamination of fish.

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Printable version | Jun 11, 2021 1:48:17 PM |

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