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Something Fishy ? A possible outbreak of formalin contamination in Indian fishes

Is formalin being used as a preservative for dead fishes?

The rampant use of formalin in food has once again surfaced recently in Asia. In the past there are numerous instances emerged in Indonesia, Bangladesh on the usage of this chemical in the edibles,  especially in fish to retain the freshness and in fruits to enhance the appealing factor. This chemical is well-known for preserving the dead bodies, is now being used to preserve food for human consumption. Let’s understand current issue at hand 

What is formalin?
Formalin is a colourless strong-smelling chemical substance usually used in industry of textiles, plastics, papers, paint and construction. It is derived from formaldehyde gas dissolved in water.

What are the possible impacts to human beings on continuous consumption of formalin?
Exposure from its gas or vapor can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and respiratory tract, causing sneezing, sore throat, larynx constriction, bronchitis and pneumonia. Formalin that was recently found in food, might not give such obvious reactions. However, this substance is known to be a carcinogenic in nature. A study showed mice exposed to formalin with concentration of 6 to 15 ppm for 2 years developed squamous-cell carcinoma in the nostril. Some other studies also show formalin will cause kidney, liver, and lung problems.

How the recent outbreak emerged in India especially in the southern states?
It all started with a kit devised by Tamil Nadu Dr J Jayalalithaa Fisheries University’s (TNJFU) referral laboratory of fish quality testing and certification identified the formalin content in fish which are for sale in Chennai market. Kasimedu is the biggest harbor in Chennai and this issue had made the headlines when health authorities sounded an alarm on the possibility of fish laced with formalin. Similarly, check post officials in Kerala seizing shipments of fish from Andhra Pradesh for same reasons and the situation is followed by states of Odisha, Nagaland and even Goa resulting in panic in trade and consumers

Mitigate the risks of formalin contamination in food by avoiding fish consumption?
While there are arguments of contamination caused due to disgruntled middlemen at the fish-yard in only few batches, it is recommended to the consumers that avoiding fish is the alternative for few days. May be in very soon the health departments of these states would release the test reports and ease out the panic situation. Although, there are few home remedies which are not scientifically proven to adapt, it is advisable to avoid fish considering the risk to health. 
Please be discretionary and wait for the scientific analysis reports. As the matter is a serious health concern to the public we are disseminating these details. We have no intention of spreading hearsay's
Updated on 18.072018 - FSSAI recently provided a guidance document with reference to the precautions that a consumer should exercise. The document is can be accessed here. Also, it is very unfortunate that the APEX body couldn't reinforce its position on this current issue and continuing the ambiguous environment in the market place.

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