Kerala, Nagaland crack down on sale of formalin-laced fish as toxic carcinogenic chemical poses major health hazards

Major raids have been carried out in Kerala and Nagaland, with nearly 15,600 kilograms and Rs 10 lakh worth of formalin-laced fish being seized from the two states respectively. Formalin is the chemical used to preserve bodies and prevent its decay in mortuaries. The widespread use of the deadly chemical nowadays in the preservation of fish, fruit, and other food items is posing a great threat to public health.

Formalin-laced fish seized in Kerala

Since 24 June, at least 6,000 kilograms of fish preserved in toxic chemical 'formalin', were seized at the border check post in northern Palakkad district in Kerala, and 9,600 kilograms seized at the check post in Kollam district in the state.

 Kerala, Nagaland crack down on sale of formalin-laced fish as toxic carcinogenic chemical poses major health hazards

Representational image. PTI

The Kerala food safety department officials foiled an attempt to ferry the chemical-mixed fish from Andhra Pradesh during a raid carried out in the Palakkad district as part of the 'Operation Sagar Rani,' a drive launched in May to ensure safety and hygiene at fish handling and distribution centres, reported The Hindu.

As many as 6,000 kilograms of prawns, brought in 45 lorries, were found mixed with formalin, officials said.

The week before, 12,000 kilograms of toxic fish, containing formalin, were confiscated during raids in the state.

The complete fish load was sent to the chemical laboratory in Ernakulam district for further examination, they said. A 15-member team of food safety officials from Kozhikode, Ernakulam, and Palakkad, led by joint food safety commissioner, carried out the raid.

The crackdown on the carcinogenic chemical being used for preserving fish in the state continued with a raid on 25 June at the border check post of Arayankavu in Kollam district.

Nearly 9,600 kilograms were seized when officials from the state food safety department intercepted a cargo carrying formalin-laced fish from Tuticorin in neighbouring Tamil Nadu, at the check post, a release said on 26 June.

The fish that arrived in two vehicles included 7,000 kilograms of prawns and 2,600 kilograms of other species.

A total of 21,600 kilograms of fish with formalin has been seized after the launch of the operation, in Kerala so far.

According to a Kerala food safety official, the presence of formalin was detected during the preliminary examination carried out using paper strips, developed by the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology.

Assistant food safety commissioner AK Mini said, “The department has decided to step up the vigil and conduct random tests at fish markets to look out for chemical mixed fish." She further added that the department has appealed to the state government to allow refrigerated fish trucks only, reported Financial Express.

According to the same report, tests conducted in the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology in Kochi found that a kilogram of fish contained 63.9 mg of formalin. A health expert, Mathew Thomas said, “Formalin poses serious health hazards. It triggers a metabolic process and produces toxins, once inside the body. While cooking, its toxicity never gets spoiled.”

Formalin-laced fish seized in Nagaland

Following suit with Kerala, days after a notification was issued in Nagaland prohibiting the sale of fish products preserved with formalin, on 25 June the Kohima district administration seized such products treated with preservatives, from four vehicles, worth about Rs 10 lakh.

In Kohima, officials from the district administration, Municipal Council, and Health and Family Welfare intercepted four vehicles transporting the fresh fish products and seized the
four-wheelers, the police said on 26 June.

On testing, the fish products were found to have been treated with formalin, the police said.

The drivers of the four vehicles along with the seized fish products were handed over to South Police Station in Kohima. The fish products were disposed at the KMC dumping site in the presence of the Food Safety Commissioner-cum-Commissioner and Secretary Himato Zhimomi.

Zhimomi on 22 June had prohibited the storage, distribution, and sale of fresh fish products treated with formalin or other forms of preservatives in the state for a period of three months or till corrective measures were taken.

Crustaceans such as crab, lobsters, and prawns were included among the fresh fish products in the notification. Zhimomi had said that a fine of Rs 10 lakh with imprisonment under relevant sections of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 would be imposed on those found violating the order.

With inputs from PTI

Updated Date: Jun 26, 2018 18:01:49 IST