- Formalin is used in the preservation of fish and to increase its shelf life
- It’s a colourless solution which contains approximately 40% Formaldehyde
- Formaldehyde is a pungent gas extremely toxic and poisonous for humans and can cause cancer
There have been many instances of this being found by food quality checkers. Food Safety Department in Kerala had found and seized around six thousand kilograms of fish (mainly prawn and shrimp coming from Andhra Pradesh) which had formalin in Vadakara. Similarly, a 15-day ban was announced on fish in Patna after fish with formalin were discovered. Goa had banned imports from outside the state, and this problem was reported as far as Nagaland.
Fish suppliers use formalin to increase the shelf life of fish. This is especially so as fish spoils very quickly. When there is a shortage of fishes (e.g. in monsoons) and the fishes are imported/sent long distances, there is a higher tendency for its use. In order to preserve seafood, most of formalin which is used is diluted till the point that it cannot be easily detectable (smell of formalin is very strong)
Formalin is used to preserve bodies before they are buried or even used as cadavers. It has been found by surveys that people who come in close contact with the chemical have higher risks of cancer, respiratory issues and many health problems. This is what the people are risking when they are buying fish and other seafood laced with formalin.
- When buying fish, check whether it is stiff, has hard scales, gives off a pungent fishy smell and has no flies around. These are some indicators to ascertain if the fish is laced with formalin.
- Even after buying the fish, washing it properly and vigorously with water for several minutes and not merely soaking them in water.
- Pangasius (a type of Vietnamese catfish), which does not have bones and is locally known as Basa was one of the main culprits, according to many news reports