India: Fish lovers beware
The headline in this week’s India Vision newspaper reads Fish lovers beware! Unscrupulous fish wholesalers are using formalin, a toxic and carcinogenic chemical commonly used to preserve dead bodies in mortuaries, to prevent fish from deteriorating during transportation Apparently the fisheries department of Punjab picked up samples of hundreds of fish in the fresh fish markets and found they had a large dose of formalin in them.
The fish came from Delhi but the Health Minister who is a doctor himself uttered the usual nonsensical political babble “We will definitely enquire about it and once it is authentically established, we will take whatever action is required under food safety laws,” The fish lobby headed by Riyasat Ali swung into action to prevent any samples from being taken from the Ghazipur Fish Market. Every day, 20- 50 tonnes of fish arrives at this market, from places as far away as Orissa, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh.
The contaminated fish was a type of Vietnamese catfish which is now farmed in Andhra Pradesh. Locally known as ‘ Basa’, it has become popular in India, since it is a virtually boneless freshwater fish. It is, in fact, one of the most extensively farmed fishes in Asia.
Trade sources said preserving fish in formalin is not just a common practice in Andhra Pradesh but across India.
Formalin treatment increases the shelf life of the fish which takes about a week to reach Punjab from Andhra Pradesh. Trade sources said formalin is available over the counter and is cheap, hence it is often used to illegally preserve perishable food items like fish.