After ban lift, kits to test formalin contents on frozen fish arrive

IMPHAL,8th July: The much awaited test kits for checking formalin and ammonia contents on frozen fish have arrived at the state food testing laboratory here on Sunday. State food analyst Chabungbam Sanajaoba told The People’s Chronicle that 40 test kits which have arrived were developed by Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT), Kochi. Each test kit has 25 testing strips and of the total kits, 20 will be given to Nagaland. CIFT will engaged a private company to produce the test kits and make it available to the common people at low cost.

The test kit has strips, reagent solutions and standard colour chart, which will make it easier for common people to use and anybody can see the result within two to three minutes. One can check formalin contents by rubbing the strip on the fish a couple of times and then by dropping a couple of drops of the reagent, which will change the colour of the strip. Light pink colour tells that there is no formalin content whereas green to deep blue colour indicates 20 to 100 mg of formalin per kg, he explained.

He further said that officials of state food testing laboratories will conduct random checking of frozen fish in the market and they will send legal samples to Central Food Laboratory Kolkata if any of the fish products were found positive of formalin contents during the check. They will conduct test in valley areas in the first phase and in the hills in the second phase. Besides, they will conduct similar test on fish imported from Myanmar by visiting Moreh, Sanajaoba disclosed.

Mention may be made here that the state health department put a temporary ban on imported frozen fish before lifting it after some days. While lifting the ban, health director Dr K Rajo had said that the department will intensify routine check and collection of legal samples for further testing. The move came following finding traces of formalin and ammonia in six out of 17 surveillance samples collected by the food safety wing. The health director had also said that the department will put in place strict measures to collect samples from the entry points of the imported frozen fishes into the state for testing.

Formaldehyde is a highly reactive aldehyde gas formed by oxidation or incomplete combustion of hydrocarbons. Formaldehyde solution (formalin) is considered a hazardous compound, and its vapour toxic. Exposure to formaldehyde might increase the chance of getting cancer even at levels too low to cause symptoms.

On the other hand, exposure to high concentration of ammonia in air causes immediate burning sensation of the nose, throat and respiratory tract. This can cause bronchiolar and alveolar edema, and airway destruction resulting in respiratory distress or failure. Inhalation of lower concentration can cause coughing, and nose and throat irritation.

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