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Govt for crackdown on contamination of fish

The government is gearing up for a crackdown on chemical contamination of fish, Fisheries Minister J. Mercykutty Amma has said.

Addressing a press conference here on Wednesday, she said move was afoot to clamp down on traders using hazardous chemicals for preservation of fish. The operation would be carried out jointly by the Fisheries and Food Safety Departments.

The Minister released a kit developed by the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) for quick detection of ammonia and formaldehyde, commonly used as preservatives for fish. Named CIFTest, the kit includes a paper strip that is laced with a reagent after rubbing on the fish. In a process akin to a litmus test, the strip changes colour as the reagent interacts with ammonia or formalin.

K. Ashok Kumar, one of the scientists at CIFT who developed the kit, said 18% of the samples collected from various fish markets during the validation of the kit had shown dangerous levels of ammonia and formaldehyde, indicating the public health hazard. Most of the highly contaminated samples were collected from traders importing fish from other States. CIFT has recommended better cold storage facilities at fish-landing centres and markets to eliminate the use of chemical preservatives.

The Minister, who later distributed the kit to Matsyafed and Food Safety officials, said the CIFT would transfer the technology for mass production. She said periodic inspections would be carried out at fish markets across the State and promised stern action against traders using hazardous chemicals to extend the shelf life of fish.

Ms. Mercykutty Amma said the government was framing legislation for regulation of fish marketing in the State. The proposed Bill was aimed at eliminating middlemen in the fish marketing chain and ending the exploitation of fishermen, she said.

It envisaged a greater role for fishworkers’ cooperative societies in procuring directly from fish landing centres and bringing fresh fish to the consumer.

Earlier, officials from the Fisheries and Food Safety Departments, accompanied by the Minister, collected samples from fish vendors in the Palayam market here. All the samples tested negative for ammonia and formalin, a press note issued here said.