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Formalin in Fish

Topics Covered:

  1. Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
  2. Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.

 

Formalin in Fish

 

What to study?

For Prelims and Mains: Formalin in fish- why is used? Its effects, measures needed and the need for complete ban.

 

Context: Bihar’s heath department has imposed a blanket ban for 15 days on sale of fish from Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal in capital Patna after samples were found to be contaminated with formalin. The ban includes storage and transportation of fish from Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal.

About Formalin:

Formalin is a toxic, colourless solution that is derived by dissolving formaldehyde gas in water.

  • It is a cancer-inducing chemical used to preserve fish and is used as a disinfectant. It is used in the manufacture of pesticides, fertilisers, glue, paper and paint, among other products.
  • Formalin causes irritation in the eyes, throat, skin and stomach. In the long run continued exposure causes harm to the kidneys, liver and can even cause cancers.
  • Formaldehyde is a highly reactive, flammable gas, which means it can become a fire hazard when exposed to flame or heat.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Sources: Down to Earth, the Hindu.