Formalin-laced seafood haunts city’s fish-eaters

The fear was triggered by seafood laced with harmful chemicals being transported over long distances to preserve the stock.
Image used for representational purpose.
Image used for representational purpose.

BENGALURU: Inspection of fish for possible formalin presence for increasing the stock’s shelf-life is being conducted only twice a month, but fresh fish entering the city on a daily basis is being consumed without any checks. In the backdrop of the formalin-lacing scare, customers and fish vendors are gripped by fear — the former over health impacts, and latter over business getting hit due to the scare.

Formalin-laced fish can cause
adverse health effects when
consumed | Gourav Pratap

The Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) inspectors here have conducted just three inspection rounds for fish arriving from Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Orissa, Mumbai and Goa since July. Referring to the fish markets in the city, food inspector, FSSAI — Srinidhi KV, said “We have conducted inspection at all markets last month, and the stock are formalin-free. We collect samples from each stall and treat it with chemicals, using testing kits from Kochi.” While, these inspections are done on a daily/ weekly basis, the formaline threat persists.

But these inspection rounds are far and in between, while tonnes of prawns, squid, crabs, and a variety of fish arrive in the city daily — rendering them vulnerable to attempts to lace the products with formalin, which could slip through the infrequently conducted inspection rounds.

All these stocks need a routine inspection, which has to be conducted either every day or at least once a week. A customer, Rehman, suggested, “Concern over formalin-coated fish haunts the fish-eating population in Bengaluru. In order to avoid this, the food safety department and the BBMP should undertake routine inspections.”

Another customer pointed at the prawns in Russell market and said “While Karnataka is abundant with healthy aquatic species, prawns, crabs and fish like Adu, Matti, Anjal and Saldin are imported from other states. Adding formalin is common as it increases shelf life, but harms the consumer. Regular inspection will ensure that all the stock arrives in ice only.”

A fish stall owner in Yeswhanthpur, Khaleel, said he receives around 500 kg of stock every day from Tamil Nadu and Orissa, while another vendor in HAL fish market said that he gets around 700 kg of fish every day. Similarly, all the vendors and dedicated fish market owners receive at least 600 kg of fish each day. Small vendors receive 150-200 kg of fish stock from Mangaluru, Karwar, Rameshwaram and Mumbai. A fish seller in Yeswanthpur said, “The customers are well aware of the formalin-laced fish mess, and often confirm while buying whether the fish is safe to consume. A team from the food safety department had last visited the market in July, and certified that our stock is formalin-free.”

Defining the need to maintain a strict and regular vigil on fish markets, BBMP’s Chief Health Officer, Manoranjan Hegde, said, “There are 20 circles in the city where fish is sold at dedicated spaces. All these areas have dedicated officers who keep an eye on the urban and rural markets. If any stock is found with formalin, the license of the seller will be cancelled.” However, the BBMP Joint Director of Animal Husbandry, said, “We can only give or cancel licenses. Checks and certifications are done by the FSSAI.” 
According to most of the fish consumers in Bengaluru, the FSSAI and BBMP, both should work together to trace formalin.

The fear was triggered by seafood laced with harmful chemicals being transported over long distances to preserve the stock. It was exposed earlier this year when FSSAI seized over 9,000 kg of formalin-laced fish at the Kollam coast in Kerala, following which, the All Kerala Fish Merchants and Commission Agents Association immediately boycotted all sea food supplies from Andhra Pradesh, from where it was being transported.

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