Officer finds there was no need to send fish samples to lab for analysis on July 12; Says FDA Director spoke to her over Ibrahim’s phone ordering that samples be sent to FDA lab
PANJIM: On the night of July 12, 2018, the government elected by the people, played with people’s health allowing formalin-laced fish to be sold without clearing the suspicion. This is what can be concluded from the investigation report of FDA Designated Officer (South) Iva Fernandes, which reveals that the process of sending the fish for analysis in FDA laboratory was just an eyewash to clear the fish for sale.
The officer, in her report, which has been accessed under RTI, reveals that there was no need for a second test as she had enough evidence to confiscate the material but was forced to send the fish for a second test by the FDA Director.
“M Ibrahim, president of wholesale fish market association, present at the time of inspection demanded to send portion of the said samples to FDA laboratory for further analysis before we proceeded with the action under FSS Act and which according to me was not required at that stage since tests performed were qualitative to find out only if formalin was present,” Fernandes said in her inspection report.
Further, she reveals, “However, Director FDA contacted me over the phone of Mr Ibrahim and informed me to send the portion of the samples to the laboratory and to refrain from sealing the vehicles.”
Fernandes says the shock came later when at around 12.30 pm, the Director FDA called her along with Abel Rodrigues, Senior Food Safety Officer, in her chamber and informed the contents of the report.
“I was surprised to learn the result of the report. The food analyst reported that the test for formalin/formaldehyde was within permissible limit and can be considered as a satisfactory
quality as per the provisions of the Food Safety and Standards (Food Products Standards & Food Addictives) Regulations 2011. The observation of food analyst was same for all 17 different types of fish samples,” she reveals.
“Food analyst, however, failed to mention his findings on the permissible limit in the reports. As such the reports could not be relied upon,” she says.
Fernandes said the raid was conducted in view of the news that appeared in the media that fish imported from other States was laced with carcinogenic substance called formalin.
“The team reached the wholesale venue at around 1 am, before the fish received from other States was distributed for sale in Goa. At that time there were 17 insulated vehicles in Goa with different types of fish like mackerels, sardines, clams, lady fish, pompret etc, which was stored in ice in insulated vehicles. The total quantity of fish was around 40 tonnes, worth Rs 1 cr approximately,” she said.
Fernandes added that she instructed Food Safety Officers to collect samples of the fish along with ice, which was used to store the fish, from all the vehicles to conduct a qualitative test before proceeding with the procedure of seizure and sampling under FSSA Act to confirm the presence of formalin in preservation of fish.
“The chemist from FDA laboratory was present at the time of inspection. He performed the formalin test on all samples collected by FDA officers, by Schiff’s Reagent Test. All the tested samples showed presence of formalin when colourless Schiff’s reagent turned dark pink to purple colour when added to samples,” she said, adding, “The crushed ice from the local market was also tested as a comparative test which showed negative with no colour change and solution remained colourless.”
These tests were witnessed by locals, media and fish vendors who were gathered there, she says.
However, the inspection report says, “As per the directives of Director FDA, remaining portion of the samples were sent to laboratory in thermacol boxes with ice, within the shortest possible time.”
The following team of officials were team members for the raid – Abel Rodrigues Sr Food Safety officer, Shivdas Naik – FSO, Shruiti Pilarnkar – FSO, Amit Mandrekar – FSO, Pundalik Gaude – chemist.