15-day ban on fish import

Samples test positive for formalin

SHILLONG/TURA/NONGPOH: The government has banned the import and sale of fresh fish brought from outside the state with immediate effect from Monday for 15 days after fish samples tested positive for the cancer causing toxic substance formalin.
Meghalaya heavily depends on fish imported from Andhra Pradesh.
The state government has issued a notification prohibiting the storage, distribution or sale of fresh fish or crustaceans brought from outside the state for a 15-day period.
“Out of the 19 samples tested and reports received, two have tested positive for formalin as per the analysis report of the Food Analyst to the Government dated July 20, which is highly toxic and injurious to health,” a notification from Food Safety Commissioner PW Ingty said.
Following the ban on import of fish from outside the state, anyone violating the order will attract seven years of imprisonment and a fine of up to Rs 10 lakh, said the notification.
The revelation about toxic substances in use to preserve imported fish had hit headlines across the country but fish exporters and sellers in Meghalaya had initially tried to downplay the situation asserting that the imported fish was safe and free from formalin substance.
It took a test report of the government to reveal the truth about the dangers of consuming fish that had been laced with the cancer causing preservative substance.
A surprise check at Nongpoh market on Monday led to detection of formalin in fish samples.
The team was led by the Food and Safety Officer of Ri Bhoi, E Pyngrope, accompanied by officers from the Fisheries Department of the district.
Earlier, the officials conducted tests on the gills and skin of the fish and the results were negative. However, when the officials conducted tests on pieces of imported fish, mostly rohu and pomfret, the results were positive. The colour of the paper strips in the Formaldehyde Detection Kit changed within two minutes.
Out of the 16 fishes tested from various vendors in the CTS Memorial Market in Nongpoh, 10 were positive. The officials instructed the vendors to bury the fish which tested positive.
The vendors said the fish were imported from Andhra Pradesh by suppliers in Shillong who then supplied to Nongpoh. The sellers said they were told that the fish had been tested and were safe for human consumption.
The Shillong Times had on July 16 reported that the state was preparing to ban fish exported to Meghalaya as the second test report had revealed traces of formalin.
However, the Health Minister AL Hek, Fisheries Minister Comingone Ymbon along with the local fish merchants told media persons on July 18 that the tests were negative and hence Meghalaya will not ban fish sale.
Questions were raised as to why the local fish merchants, ministers and government officials should jointly address the media to announce that there was no formalin in the fishes brought from Andhra Pradesh and other states.
However, an official said that more tests were conducted resulting in the decision to ban the imported fish.

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