Fish ban: Finding the source of contamination

Fish ban: Finding the  source of contamination

Tests by Andhra authorities give contradictory results


Morung Express News
Dimapur | July 15


Subsequent to the Nagaland Food Safety authority banning sale and storage of formalin-contaminated fish and crustaceans on June 22, fish imported from Andhra Pradesh remain off the market shelves. Traders here also stopped importing fish from the southern state since June 26.


More than 3 weeks since the order and the subsequent halting of imports, the Nagaland Food Safety Commissioner, I. Himato Zhimomi maintained that the traders have to provide uncontaminated and safe food.


Asked what are the steps being contemplated by the state government to resolve the issue, he said that as a regulatory authority his job has been to keep check and now it is upto to the traders and the producers to supply healthy fish. “Anybody can bring in fish. But our stand has been very clear that it has to be formalin-free and safe for consumption.” He added that his department had subsequently intimated the Andhra Pradesh counterpart.


Finding the source of the contamination and ‘belling the cat’ has remained the one query since day one. The reaction though from the authorities in Andhra Pradesh to the complaint from Nagaland has remained far from satisfactory.


But the issue stirred by Nagaland and authorities in Manipur got a boost with Assam joining the list of complainants. The Assam government on July 11 banned fish imports from Andhra Pradesh to the state for a period of 10 days after samples collected for tests returned positive for formalin.


As per fish traders here, Assam is the second biggest fish-consumer market after West Bengal in India with the former’s fish imports estimated at 30 times that of Nagaland’s.


Subsequent to the Assam government raising the alarm, an inspection team from the Andhra Pradesh government landed up in Assam on June 14. According to A. Malik, a Dimapur-based fish trader, the team conducted tests on samples taken from in-transit trucks at Rangia, Assam. He said that the samples tested positive for formalin.


However, he added that a week back, the authorities in Andhra Pradesh conducted tests at a fish production and packaging site at Bhimavaram in West Godavari district, wherein the tests returned negative results.


With the tests giving contradictory results, Malik held that the authorities should find out the source of the ice used for preserving fish. “My opinion is that they should also test the ice used in the packaging box, which ultimately are send to the markets.” He maintained that the chances of tampering the fish boxes midway are low as any sign of fiddling with the seals can be physically detected.


On this, Commissioner Zhimomi commented, “It’s either the regulators (in Andhra Pradesh) are not doing their job or something is happening midway.”


Meanwhile, the fish ban has not had any significant impact in the sale of other meat products. Shahab-uddin, a poultry retailer in New Market said that he and other meat and egg traders had expected sales to jump after the ban. However, he said, “We thought sales would increase but it has not changed much. My sales as usual have remained between 100-150kg.”


Riaz Ahmed, a mutton (goat meat) trader said that market dynamics hardly impact sales in his trade because of the high price of goat meat, which presently is 500 per kg.


An egg trader, who said his sales has remained more or less the same, attributed it to the summer. According to him, sale of meat and egg shows a downward curve during the summer. It was a similar story in the beef and pork segment.


Other meat vendors taking advantage of the situation has been a concern. But according to the president of the Dimapur Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) Akashe K. Zhimomi, there have been no complaints till date. He asked the consumers to alert the DMC Rate Control Cell for any complaint in this regard.


As for the fish samples independently collected and sent for laboratory analysis to Guwahati by the DCCI and fish traders here, he said that one tested positive for formalin.