The Formalin-in-fish row in Goa continues to haunt the public


Ever since the FDA raid and their subsequent discovery of Formalin in the fish being supplied to Goa, last week, there have been repeated requests on public forums for Goans to stop eating fish. The Formalin-in-fish row has resulted in Goa’s fish markets being more or less deserted. Whatever fish is still being supplied in the morning, ends up being taken back by the suppliers by afternoon. Formalin is a highly toxic chemical that is used in the embalming of corpses. It is said to not be a naturally occurring substance. Therefore, there is a definite cause for alarm now after it has been found in the fish that Goans are consuming.

The Fish row has affected everyone

Since last week, Goans have more or less stopped buying and consuming fish. Samples taken from the Panjim and Margao fish markets showed the presence of the harmful chemical. The fish that tested positive for Formalin was from out-of-state although the newspapers did state that even locally sourced fish tested positive for it. This resulted in the markets being shut down that particular day and the entire fish supply being confiscated by the FDA. Fish is still being sold in smaller numbers and quantities but the public is wary of buying any. Some have even been seen sniffing the fish just to check its freshness.

The row over Formalin in the fish seems to be escalating and has affected not just the common man but even restaurants and big hotels. With Goa being famous for seafood, it is almost impossible to go anywhere and not have fish as part of the menu. The FDA report states that the Formalin found was within acceptable limits but fish buyers are still choosing to stay away.

Experts speak up

The fish row has even gotten experts from various scientific organizations involved. A few of them spoke up.

“Formalin is not a naturally occurring compound. Compounds like amino acids can be naturally present in fish, but formalin cannot be naturally present,” Dr. Anil Chatterji, a marine biologist who spent four decades with the National Institute of Oceanography, said. He even added that even small doses of Formalin are harmful in the long run. Even the presence of the chemical in the fish makes it unfit for human consumption.

“We use formalin to preserve fish when we bring it to carry out experiments, but this fish cannot be eaten. In fact, when we collect live fish and add 1-2ppm formalin, the fish dies. This is because formalin is neurotoxic and stops all physiological activity,” Chatterji said.

The former head of Goa University’s microbiology department Dr. Joe D’Souza also confirmed this. He said, “Formalin is occurring naturally in fish is false. Whatever is occurring naturally in fish is aldehyde, which is used as a nutrient and it produces energy through various metabolic processes. Formalin is a highly toxic chemical used as a preservative.”

A doctor demonstrates how harmful Formalin is

The row over the Formalin in fish also led to a doctor offering his expertise. He too stated that “Formalin cannot be allowed to be used on fish, and therefore there is no question of “within permissible limits’’. People of Goa have to wake up and decide. A legal action must also be taken,’’  D.r Nadkarni said.

He then proceeded to show how harmful it can be to humans. Conducting this experiment in front of the media, he poured formaldehyde into a bowl and kept it open for a few seconds. He then inhaled the solution, and all could see his eyes getting irritated.

Dr. Nadkarni explained that the use of Formalin to preserve marine fish by ‘fish mafia’ in Goa can initially lead to irritation in the eyes, skin, throat, stomach and respiratory tracts.  It can cause anemia and leukemia and can also damage the kidneys and the liver.

Taking a call on eating fish in Goa

It’s no secret that Formalin is linked to cancer. Even though the FDA reported that the Formalin found was within acceptable limits, fish buyers are still choosing to stay away. The government is also believed to have said that Formalin was inherently found in fish. But as of this morning, two experts have separately told the newspapers that the substance is synthetic, highly toxic, and cancer-causing as well. Moreover, it cannot be naturally found in fish.

Social media has people stating that they have decided to take a break from eating fish. Others have also been vocal in saying that the government needs to take strict action against this illegality.

Related article – FDA raid at Goa’s major fish markets, Formalin found in fish

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