6,000 kg of formalin-laced fish seized in Kerala
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6,000 kg of formalin-laced fish seized in Kerala

Medical experts said formalin, a derivative of formaldehyde, which is generally used to preserve bodies, can cause serious ailments like cancer.

india Updated: Jul 21, 2018 10:29 IST
Ramesh Babu
Ramesh Babu
Hindustan Times, Thiruvananthapuram
Formalin in fish,Formalin,Fish
Large seizure of adulterated fish showing the presence of cancer-causing formalin in the past month have triggered a scare in Kerala.(PTI File Photo)

The Kerala State Food Safety Department on Friday seized 6,000 kg of fish contaminated with the carcinogenic chemical formalin from Vatakara in north Kerala’s Kozhikkode. The driver of the truck carrying the consignment told officials that he had brought it from Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu.

The adulterated fish was not seized from the inter-state border check-post like in earlier, similar incidents, said an official of the food safety department on condition of anonymity. The truckload was initially taken to Kannur, but merchants in the coastal city refused to accept the consignment on grounds that it was stale.

The consignment was being taken to Kozhikkode for supply when the truck broke down near Vadakara. Locals alerted officials after a bad smell started emanating from the truck. Later, food safety officials inspected the vehicle and confirmed that the fish was stale and laced with formalin, used as an antiseptic and disinfectant, among other purposes, to extend shelf life. A senior official said presence of other chemicals can be ascertained only after tests. The consignment contained mackerel, seer fish, prawns and sardines, officials said.

Large quantities of adulterated fish have been seized from many border check-posts in the past month, triggering a scare throughout Kerala. Similar complaints were reported from Goa, West Bengal and Assam. Fish sales also dipped drastically in many parts of the country.

At least 60,000 kg of fish were destroyed in a drive, ‘Operation Sagar Rani’, in Kerala. When the authorities stepped up raids, adulterated supply thinned, but its flow resumed after officials lowered their guard.

A major fish-eating state, Kerala consumes 2,500 tonne of fish daily. Since domestic supply is enough to meet only 60% of its requirement, it is dependent heavily on other states. To meet growing demand, the state fisheries department has started inland aquaculture and cage farming, but these measures are yet to plug the demand-supply gap.

Medical experts said formalin, a derivative of formaldehyde, which is generally used to preserve bodies, can cause serious ailments like cancer.

In 2011, the US National Toxicology Program dubbed formaldehyde a human carcinogen.

“Formalin poses serious health hazards. Once inside the body it triggers a metabolic process and produces toxins,” said health expert Mathew Thomas.

Doctors said regular intake of chemically-laced fish may corrode the inner lining of the stomach, leading to a cellular change and eventually cancer. Breathing even a small amount of f formaldehyde can lean to pneumonia and bronchitis, they said.

Scientists at Central Institute of Fisheries Technology developed a strip (white in colour), which, when rubbed three to four times on a fish laced with formalin, will turn yellowish-blue.

First Published: Jul 20, 2018 23:13 IST