Mangaluru, June 24, 2018: Messages and pictures shared widely on social media, claiming fish sold in markets located in the coastal belt of Karnataka are laced with poisonous chemicals has raised serious concerns among fish lovers.
Though the location, where the video was shot, is not yet traced, it is assumed that it was captured either in Dakshina Kannada or Udupi as both parties – complainant and fish vendors – communicate in Tulu. A section of people believe it was shot in Bantwal taluk of Dakshina Kannada. Fish vendors in the video are seen confessing that only old fish arriving from other parts of South India are laced with chemicals and the fish caught in Mangaluru are clean.
Formaldehyde that is used to preserve dead bodies and ammonia that is generally used as fertilizer in agriculture are among the chemicals locals allege are used in fish that is currently available in the market.
As fishing is currently banned, most of the fish available in the local markets here is iced and arrives from Tamil Nadu and Kerala.
“Since several years, rumours have been making the rounds alleging poisonous chemicals are either injected or sprayed on fish to keep them fresh and shining. However, this hasn’t been proven so far. Chances of such a racket operating in fish trade cannot be ruled out. During my service, I have heard several allegations of fish being laced with sodium benzoate to retain their sheen,” said V K Shetty, former managing director of Karnataka Fisheries Development Corporation.
He said a few years ago, fish merchants from Kerala used to travel to Mangaluru seeking fresh fish as they believed chemicals were introduced into fish obtained in their waters. As a confirmation to this, in February last year Food Safety and Standards Authority of India had confirmed that 47 fish samples it collected from various parts of Kozhikode were tested positive for toxic chemicals, including sodium benzoate.
Benzoate can cause diseases such as Parkinson’s, genetic disorders and destruction of cells while formaldehyde is listed as cancer causing agent. Continuous ingestion of ammonia can lead to several health issues.
Calling for introducing traceability measures in fish business, Shetty said strict measures should be introduced, such as details from where fish was caught and boat that was used in fishing. “This will help bring transparency in the business,” he said. Currently, cultured fish used in export undergo such checks.
Iddya Karunasagar, senior director, Nitte (deemed to be) University said in case of suspicion, samples of such fish could be sent to ICAR - Central Institute of Fisheries Technology for detection. “Recently, rapid detection kits for formaldehyde and ammonia adulteration in fresh fish have been introduced. This test involves bringing a PH paper in contact with fish. The paper changes colour if the fish has formaldehyde or ammonia,” he added.