Kerala Health Minister K K Shylaja said on Tuesday the government would intensify its raids on fish loads brought in from other states to check adulteration.
The move comes a day after the Kerala Food Safety department seized more than 9,000 kg of fish contaminated by toxic formalin, which is commonly used to preserve cadavers and has been listed as cancer-causing agent by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. At least 28,000 kg of adulterated fish were destroyed in the last three weeks.
“Drives would be held in check-posts as well as local markets. If the lab tests prove adulteration of fish, all stakeholders, including transporters, in the supply chain would be prosecuted. If required, the food safety department would seek the help of police also. The seized truck loads have been sent back to their points of origin for disposing,” Shylaja said.
On Monday, special squads had seized 9,600 kg of fish contaminated with formalin, out of which 7,000 kg was shrimp meant for local markets. Lab tests of 6,000 kg of shrimp, seized on Sunday, had also revealed that one kg of shrimp contained 4.1 milligram of the toxic chemical.
The seizures were made during the food safety department’s special inspection drives ‘Sagara Rani’ at all inter-state check-posts. The drive was launched on June 9, three days after the imposition of the trawling ban — a 52-day-long period when deep-sea fishing trawler boats are not allowed to catch fish along Kerala coast. Fish loads are brought to Kerala from Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Goa and Maharashtra to meet the shortage in the market during the period.
Kerala Food Safety Joint Commissioner Anil Kumar said the practice of adding the harmful chemicals to increase shelf life of fish has been in existence for a long time. However, in absence of a proven testing methodology to detect the presence of formalin or ammonia several such cases went undetected, he said.
“…(However) a new test kit of the CIFT (Central Institute of Fisheries Technology, Kochi) has helped in timely detection of adulteration (this time). They have given us enough kits for the present drive,” he added. The Kerala Commissionerate of Food Safety destroyed 28,000 kg of adulterated fish in the last three weeks with the help of the advanced test kits, developed by the Kochi-based institute.
CIFT director Dr C V Ravisankar told The Indian Express that the institute has developed two types of test kits for detecting ammonia and formalin, which would be available to the public within a month.
“The kits developed by the CIFT have been handed over to the Kerala Government to test fish arrivals from other states. We are going to finalise an MoU with a private firm for the commercial production of the kits. Then, in another month, the kits would be available for the public at cost below Rs 5 per test,” he said.
5.6% rise in marine fish production
Thiruvananthapuram: India’s marine fish production has shown a sign of revival with the annual marine fish landings in 2017 registering 5.6 per cent increase compared to the previous year, according to the data released by Kochi-based Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute (CMFRI) on Tuesday.
Last year’s cyclone Ockhi had a devastating effect on the marine fisheries sectors of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. —ENS