Fish is the staple diet of most Goans. It’s rare that one will find a Goan household that doesn’t consume fish as part of their daily meal. However, after a raid by the FDA on Thursday, Goa could be looking at a shutdown on the supply of fish to its major fish markets. The reason? Fish samples taken from two different markets during the were found to contain the harmful chemical Formalin. This is a hazardous chemical and detrimental to health in a big way.
As the monsoon is on in the state, fishing has been banned. The fish tested on the spot at Panjim and Margao fish markets was supplied from out of state. Fish samples were taken from 17 different trucks that had come in from states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. All these samples tested positive for the presence of Formalin. Samples taken from locally procured fish are also believed to have tested positive.
Formalin found in fish
Medicine.net defines Formalin as, “A 37% aqueous (water) solution of formaldehyde, a pungent gas, with the chemical formula HCHO, used as an antiseptic, disinfectant, and especially today as a fixative for histology (the study of tissues under the microscope).”
Formalin is toxic to humans in general. However, though the FDA tests have come back positive for the chemical, it is said that everything is within permissible limits. After a detailed laboratory examination, the FDA in a press release said that ‘the results obtained for all the samples are found within permissible limits. The fish samples are thus declared to be safe for consumption.’
“The whole process of sampling, as well as the detailed analysis, was undertaken on a top priority basis, keeping in mind the perishable nature of fish,” the press release reads further.
A blow to the Goan public
While the Margao and even the Mapusa markets remained closed on Thursday, the Panjim market still had a few vendors selling their fish. All the contaminated fish was confiscated by the FDA after the raid. This led to a surge in the sale of local caught frozen fish which was preferred by the locals. The price of fish soared with the sudden demand. Fish like Bombay duck was sold for Rs. 300 a portion and prawns are said to have gone for Rs 500 a portion.
However, incidents like this usually end up creating fear in the public’s mind. Fish consumers all over the state are in a panic. People from Salcete expressed their worry over the FDA’s findings of Formalin in the fish. Social media, as well as the newspapers, were set ablaze with locals demanding that the government be strict with such illegal activities.
Here are a few quotes taken from the Navhind Times regarding the same.
“It is risky to eat fish now. I have decided to stop eating fish. What we see is that the tasty Goan fish is allowed to be exported and we are forced to eat poisonous fish. I appreciate the FDA for taking the bold step to crack down on the illegalities,” said Cynthia Colaco of Margao.
A Loutolim man J Barbosa, a regular fish eater, said, “I strongly demand that the samples be sent to private labs to be checked again because there is a possibility that due to pressure from the government, there can be twists in the reports. Fish is eaten by young and the old and after knowing the facts, we cannot continue making mistakes. Somebody has to toe the line,” he said.
“If everything under the sun is contaminated and chemically unhygienic for consumption, we do not know what to eat and what not to eat since we have chemicals in fruits, vegetables, milk and milk products, chicken and now in fish,” said Navdeep Aguiar.
N Naik from Housing Board in Margao said that a mechanism needs to be in place to check fish, especially during the ban period. “The FDA should conduct the checks repeatedly. We cannot afford to eat fish and fall sick. If a real ‘Goenkar’ is served poisoned fish, it’s a sad story. We cannot allow cancer to conquer us. The government should have a concern regarding our health,” he said.