PATNA: The Bihar government on Monday imposed a ban on the sale and storage of all fish within the territorial jurisdiction of Patna Municipal Corporation (PMC) after tests on fish samples found the presence of carcinogenic material used for their preservation.
The ban, imposed in the interest of public health, would remain effective for a period of fifteen days as further tests are being conducted on fish samples collected from across Patna district, said Bihar's commissioner of food safety, Sanjay Kumar.
"Sale, storage, distribution and transport of all fish has been prohibited with immediate effect under clause A of sub-section 2 of Section 30 of Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006 in PMC's territorial jurisdiction for a period of 15 days," said Kumar, who is also the principal secretary of the state health department.
Ten samples of fish collected from various parts in Patna were sent to Central Food Laboratory (CFL) in Kolkata for quality tests after a recommendation from the state animal husbandry and fisheries department. All ten samples - six from Andhra Pradesh, two from West Bengal and two of local varieties - were found contaminated due to chemicals used as preservatives and thus unsafe for human consumption.
"In seven samples, high doses of formalin were found. Traces of other contaminants such as lead, mercury and cadmium were also found beyond the permissible tolerance limit. Formalin is not included in the list of preservatives to be used in food products such as fish," said Sanjay Kumar.
Intake of high doses of formalin, lead and cadmium along with the fish can lead to cancer in human beings. The health department is currently conducting a survey and collecting samples of fish from Andhra Pradesh and West Begnal on sale in other parts of Bihar.
"The ban could be extended to the entire state if the chemical analysis of those samples finds them unsafe for consumption. Violation of the ban would attract punishment with imprisonment for up to seven years or a fine up to Rs 20 lakh as per the law's provisions," said Sanjay Kumar.
The animal husbandry and fisheries department had earlier sent 38 samples of fish coming from Andhra Pradesh that was collected from 25 districts, including Patna, and sent for a chemical analysis at Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT), Kochi, said sources. Those tests had also found the fish unsafe for human consumption, the sources added.
Bihar produces 5.87 lakh tonnes of fish annually against a requirement of 6.42 lakh tonnes, said officials. An estimated 55,000 metric tonnes of fish are imported from Andhra Pradesh every year. Consignments of fish from Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal regularly reach Patna, Muzaffarpur, Katihar and Rohtas districts, from where they are sent to other parts of the state.