Fish containing deadly chemicals continue to enter Kerala markets. Thousands of kilograms of fish containing formalin, which is used for preservation of dead bodies, have been seized from the state in recent days.
As the annual monsoon trawling ban is on in Kerala, fall in the fish catch in the state is compensated by arrivals mainly from fish landing centres in Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Goa. These cargoes arrive in Kerala in trucks with cold storage facility.
Fish, especially oil sardines, mackerels, and prawns, that arrived in Tirur the other day looked fresh and tidy, but local dealers and hawkers said that they might have had a chemical bath before being imported. They complained of pungent smell emanating from the ice containers and pointed out that the colour of the water had turned dark. It fuelled suspicion that traders might have applied high doses of harmful chemical preservatives on them to delay the decay and make raw fish look fresh.
Food Safety authorities suspect that fish stocks might have been immersed in containers holding toxic chemicals for several months before they were sent to the local market. In the latest raid at Walayar on Kerala-Tamil Nadu border, the food security department impounded 6,000 kg prawns containing formalin. These were being transported from Andhra Pradesh to a factory at Aroor.
Authorities had seized 14,000 kg of formalin-mixed fish from Walayar as well as Amaravila border post in Thiruvananthapuram district last week.
Food safety officials sent back 6,000 kg of fish brought from Hyderabad to Edappazhanji market in Thiruvananthapuram last week because it was found to contain formalin during primary examination.
A detailed analysis of the sample, conducted at the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology, found 63.6 mg of formalin in a kilogram of fish.
Ice factories outside Kerala, which supply their products to fish markets and processing centres here, are also suspected to be mixing water with chemicals that are used as preservatives. Chemicals were also found in ice supplied to Neendakara fishing hamlet in Kollam district from Tamil Nadu.
Formalin, which is used in mortuaries to prevent decay of bodies, can cause serious diseases like cancer if too much of it goes into the human body. Studies have proven that formalin can cause lung cancer and leukaemia, besides ulceration in the digestive system.
As the departments of health, food safety or fisheries are making limited efforts to examine fish stocks that arrive in the local market from other states, the general public continue to consume fish preserved with toxic chemicals, imperiling their health.