After much dilly-dallying, Meghalaya Government on Monday finally banned import of fish packed in ice for 15 days after several samples returned formalin positive.
The decision was taken after officials found at least nine samples laced with formalin when they tested these with the recently procured Formaldehyde Detection Test (FDT) kits.
Most of the samples were taken from Nongpoh, Ri-Bhoi district and fishes were imported from Andhra Pradesh. The Meghalaya Fisheries dept recently received 14 FDT kits from Cochin-based Central Institute of Fisheries Technology.
The State has sent samples of fishes to Public Health Laboratory in Guwahati, but according to reports received none of the fishes had traces of formalin. Based on the report the State Government decided not to take any action.
However, during the last couple of weeks conflicting reports have emerged. One of the local dailies reported quoting a senior official that fish samples were found positive laced with formalin. Government later gave a different version saying it’s not true.
Many of the fish wholesalers have taken on lease fisheries in Andhra Pradesh and therefore there is a substantial investment involved in the business. The fish wholesalers met the Government and sought its assistance when reports first came in of formalin in fishes from Andhra Pradesh.
Meanwhile, SN Sangma, Food Safety Commissioner said, the report of formalin in fish is not just a concern for Meghalaya alone, but also for other Northeastern States. “It’s a huge health concern, so the Government has banned the import of fishes,” he said.
He said officials from Andhra Pradesh have assured that such instances would be checked. They have also assured that surveys are being carried out in the fisheries and have invited stakeholders to see the packaging of the fishes themselves.
Non-compliance to this notification will attract imprisonment up to seven years and fine up to Rs 10 lakh as provided under Section 59 (iv) of the Food Safety & Standards Act, 2006, he said.
The order was issued following the receipts of two fish samples which tested positive for presence of formalin. The samples were tested at Assam-based Public Health Laboratory, Food Safety Deputy Commissioner S N Sangma said.
Formalin is a colourless solution of formaldehyde in water, used chiefly as a preservative for biological specimens.
The two samples tested positive for presence of formalin were taken from Jowai town of West Jaintia Hills district and Nongpoh, the district headquarter of Ri-Bhoi.
“Out of the six samples received today, two tested positive and necessary recommendations were made to the government for immediate banning of fish imported from outside the State,” Sangma said.
Test results of another seven samples out of the 26 samples which were earlier this month sent to the laboratory for test for presence of formalin was awaited, he said.
– The Assam Tribune