FORMALIN IN FISH
11, Aug 2019
Prelims level : Environment- Pollution & Waste Management Mains level : GS-III- Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment.
- Context: Government has banned the import of fish in view of the scare of formalin, a cancer inducing chemical used to illegally preserve fish being found in it.
- Over the last few days, the word formalin or formaldehyde is on the lips of most fish-loving Goans, after the state Food and Drugs Administration cracked down on consignments of fish from other states laced with the chemical.
Issue in Goa:
- In July last year, the government banned the import of fish in view of the scare of formalin, a cancer inducing chemical used to illegally preserve fish being found in it.
- The ban was later lifted and the government launched stringent checking measures on all fish stock brought to the State.
- The Directorate of Food (FDA) has been regularly testing samples of fish brought to Goa from outside and sold in local markets.
What is Formalin?
- Formalin is derived from formaldehyde which is a known cancer-causing agent. It is used to preserve bodies in mortuaries.
- It can also increase shelf life of fresh food.
- While formalin can cause nausea, coughing and burning sensation in eyes, nose and throat in the short term, it can cause cancer if consumed over a long period of time.
Why is Fish Laced with Formalin?
- Fish is a highly perishable commodity.
- If it isn’t maintained at the proper temperature of 5 degree Celsius, it gets spoilt.
- To avoid that and increase its shelf life, the sellers now use chemicals such as formalin and ammonia.
- 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 Approaching Fish Famine:
- Pollution, the overkill of fish for export and to cater to the hospitality industry in the tourism-oriented state, as well as rising sea temperatures, have already triggered a fish famine of sorts in the waters off Goa, driving prices of locally consumed staple fish through the roof.
Operation Sagar Rani:
- In June 2018, Kerala food safety department officials seized nearly 9,600 kg of fish preserved in formalin at a border check post in Kollam district.
- The seized fish included 7,000 kg of prawns and 2,600 kg of other species. The seizure was part of ‘Operation Sagar Rani’ launched by the state.