After Kerala, Goa wakes up to the dangers of formalin-laden fish

17 Jul 2018


State governments have finally moved to alert citizens over the dangers of the use of formalin for preserving fish. After the crackdown in Kerala, now Goa has raised the issue of formalin-laden fish coming into Goa from other states.

Chief minister Manohar Parrikar tweeted on Saturday that he was personally monitoring the issue of formalin presence in fish, after "spot analysis" of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had shown its presence.
Parrikar, however, on Sunday also warned that people should realise that fake news or rumours can be damaging.
Formalin, a toxic chemical is used to preserve bodies and prevent decay in mortuaries.
The FDA, in a damage-control mood, later toned down its remarks saying that the amount of formalin found in the sampled fish was "on par" with its "naturally occurring" levels and that there was no "added amount.”
Speaking at the Goa IT Day event, the chief minister said he issued a statement on Saturday to stop circulation of a rumour about fish unsafe for consumption in Goa.
Social media is abuzz with posts claiming presence of formalin in fish, the staple of the people of Goa.
"Mobile phones have made a deeper penetration...However, there are also some drawbacks like fake news. People should realize that fake does more harm or a rumour can do more harm.....Yesterday I had to speak about the reports," he said.
The fact remains that formalin is widely used across states in India for preserving fish as it is more convenient than the traditional ice blocks. The use of formalin can cause cancer.
Fromalin, which is derived from formaldehyde, can cause nausea, coughing and burning sensation in eyes, nose and throat in the short term, while it can cause cancer if consumed over a long period of time, according to experts.
Fish sales plummeted in Goa over the last few days after the state Food and Drugs Administration cracked down on consignments of fish from other states laced with the chemical.
Alarm bells started ringing after the Kerala food safety department officials last month seized nearly 9,600 kg of fish preserved in formalin at a border check post in Kollam district.
Fish is a highly perishable commodity and can get easily spoiled if kept at temperatures above 5 degree C. Fish sellers use chemicals like ammonia and formalin to avoid fish decaying and to increase its shelf life.
If the point of sale is far from the place of catch, formalin is used as a preservative. Meanwhile, ammonia is mixed with the water that is frozen to keep fish fresh.
The state government is now trying a balancing act to both calm the nerves of Goa’s fish-eating majority and cater to the demands of fisher folk after fisher women from coastal areas protested by cooking and distributing fish in front of secretariat against the campaign that fish are unsafe in the wake of recent formalin-processed fish controversy.

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