Herald: More questions in formalin in fish issue, but no answers
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More questions in formalin in fish issue, but no answers

12 Sep 2018 05:31am IST
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12 Sep 2018 05:31am IST

A document accessed under the Right To Information Act has given credence to what most people believed right from the day the government turned around to state that formalin in fish was within the permissible limit. The spot test report on the fish was positive, and there was enough evidence for the FDA Designated Officer (South) to believe that she could confiscate the material and seal the trucks carrying the fish. Instead she was forced to send the fish samples to the lab and then came a second report that cleared the fish and the imported fish was then allowed to be sold in the markets of Goa. 

If there was any doubt that there was a cover-up on the issue, this report of the spot test puts that to rest. The spot report is clear that the formalin test was performed on all samples collected by FDA officers, by the Schiff’s Reagent method and that all the tested samples showed the presence of formalin when the colourless Schiff’s reagent turned dark pink to purple colour when added to samples. The darker the colour, the more the concentration of formalin, and this is what the test showed. To be further sure, crushed ice from the local market was tested and this showed negative with no colour change.

This report was available and the government and the FDA deliberately turned a blind eye to it. In fact it was because of this report that showed the presence of formalin, that a second test was ordered. Why? Will somebody in government answer as to why fish that had tested positive for formalin in the spot test was allowed to be sold later the same day? Who, or whose interests, were being protected here? We have a government that willfully played around with the people’s health, a government that waited till they got a more palatable report from its lab that ‘cleared’ the fish. 

The same government has now decided to stop the daily testing of fish for formalin, but only have surprise checks instead. In fact the announcement that the daily testing of fish would be stopped and only surprise checks undertaken was made on the same day that the first test report was revealed under RTI. With the new knowledge that is now available, this now is not a very acceptable change in procedure. The tests should continue, and if the FDA is short staffed, then more technicians can be drafted to undertake the task. There is no plausible reason to stop the daily tests. 

The trust factor between the government and the people has been irreversibly broken as politics definitely played a big role in covering up the formalin in fish issue. If it didn’t, then will the FDA Director explain why she ordered the FDA Designated Officer to send the portion of the samples to the laboratory and to refrain from sealing the vehicles? And why was this done from the phone belonging to one M Ibrahim who is the president of the Wholesale Fish Market Association? The questions that can be posed would be endless, but getting answers will be as difficult as getting the government to admit that there indeed was formalin in fish.

It is now two months since the formalin in fish issue first broke out. And even 60 days later it has not been put to rest. New revelations only further confuse the issue. The documents accessed under RTI now call for a police investigation of the entire episode, with no one left out from being probed. The State government should answer to the people as to what exactly transpired that day and why was the fish that had first tested positive for formalin allowed to be sold.
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