Are imported fish laced with formaldehyde?
(Reproduced from June 5, 2017) : There has been video uploads of fish being injected with preservatives on the social media. The video shows the fish being dabbed with a chemical (suspected to be formaldehyde) and sometimes injected with a syringe.
The purpose is to prevent the fish from rotting away during the transportation.
After the video appeared, Imphal West designated officer Y. Satyajeet collected samples of various fish varieties brought from outside the state. The samples were collected on May 5 last. Samples of sareng, pengba, rohu, ngahei, ahila and mackerel from 17 different retailers were collected.
The fish mainly brought from Andhra Pradesh is locally called “Box ki Nga.” The samples have been handed over to the State Public Health Laboratory located at Lamphelpat, MACS complex. The report from the laboratory is still pending whereas as per rules of the Food Safety and Standard Act, 2006 under section 46, the results should be given within 14 days.
At the Lab
The laboratory does not have proper scientific tools required to conduct the test. Imphal Free Press learnt that in order to conduct the test to verify if there is formaldehyde content in the fish, a scientific test called micro-jkhedal distillation should be done.
In order to extract the formaldehyde, the laboratory set up requires certain reagents and apparatus. At present, all the required chemicals and other equipment are there except for a jkhedhal condenser. It was learnt that the apparatus costs hardly Rs 5,000. The test is still pending due to the unavailability of the equipment.
During preliminary test, a source disclosed, formaldehyde is ‘suspected’ in the fish. But, the test should be done as per guidelines of the Indian Standard Institution (ISI) method or in adherence to Director General of Health Services manual.
For such tests, the state laboratory is presently unable to formally announce the formaldehyde suspicion as the apparatus is not available to conduct the test and cannot adhere to the national food safety guidelines.
A reliable source informed that the gills of the fish are red in the fish brought from outside the state. The public generally check the gills colour for freshness of the fish and the paler the colour, the less fresher and vice versa.
The source informed that the fish also seem to be dabbed or injected with a de-homoglobilizing agent (to prevent the blood from coagulating and retain its freshness).
Generally, fish caught in the morning locally begins to lose the gill colour by evening. It is a question of how long a fish can retain its texture when transported in an ice box for 3 to 4 days. The test is still pending.
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