Keralites’ fish doused in deadly chemicals

State health department authorities seize more quantities of fish that were making their way into the state

Thiruvananthapuram: Fish-loving Keralites woke up this week to the shocking fact that the fish on their plates have deadly chemicals in them, including formalin, which is used to preserve dead bodies.

The fear was underlined on Tuesday when state health department authorities seized more quantities of fish that were making their way into the state, doused with chemicals including formalin and ammonia.

“We have so far seized 28,000 kilograms of fish laced with formalin and ammonia, and plan to prosecute the people involved”, state health minister K.K. Shailja said on Tuesday.

An estimated 85 per cent of Keralites consume fish, with about 27 kilogram consumption per capita per annum, and nearly 50 per cent of all fish consumed in the state comes from other states despite Kerala’s own long coastline and rivers, lakes and backwaters.

Most of the fish movement into Kerala happens through the state border check posts at Amaravila in Thiruvananthapuram and Walayar in Palakkad, and the seizures of contaminated fish have taken place mostly through these entry points.

Minister Shailaja said the contamination in fish could now be more easily found thanks to a technical breakthrough by the Central Institute of Fisheries Technology, which has developed a strip for quick tests. When brought in contact with fish, the strip will immediately show if the fish has been contaminated by chemicals.

Experts say that some of the chemicals like formalin will stay even after the fish is boiled or fried.

Kerala is currently observing the traditional trawling ban that takes effect during monsoon months with the aim of helping fish to breed. This has led to more fish coming into the state from outside.

The seizures of contaminated fish, however, has also triggered protests by some fish sellers, who have seen sales drop following the news. Some of them held a protest meet in front of the state secretariat on Tuesday, alleging that an unnecessary scare was being raised about chemical contamination of fish.

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