Tuesday , 13 November 2018

Raid on fish: FDA test report flawed

PANAJI: The report of tests on fish samples drawn from vehicles coming from other states by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) on Thursday was allegedly ‘faulty’ and the department will have to carry out tests again if it wants to ascertain the authenticity of its report.

Sources in the FDA on Friday said that the results of the samples drawn from the Margao wholesale fish market were ‘inaccurate and misguiding’ mainly due to the political pressure put on the department, negligence of FDA and lack of facility available with the department for the testing of formalin, a harmful preservative and cancer-causing chemical.

A team of FDA raided the wholesale fish market at Margao at 4 am on Thursday along with the department’s chemist wherein they drew fish samples of ten different species from 17 vehicles, which had arrived from states like Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka.

“The department had been on the radar of few politicians when the news broke out that FDA teams found formalin in the imported fish during the spot test conducted at Margao wholesale fish market,” said the official adding that it could be one of the major reasons that changed the fate of the report.

“Just hours after the fish samples were drawn from Margao, one of the politicians took to Twitter thanking the department and claimed that the FDA has said that the samples have tested negative for formalin, which came as a surprise, as the department had never said that the samples had tested negative,” the source said.

“The politicians say that FDA’s raid was ‘knee-jerk reaction aimed at creating panic.’ It was the people who created the panic, the FDA team was doing its job and all raids conducted by this department were always spontaneous,” the source added. The source said that the report of the FDA that the content of formalin in the fish sample was within ‘permissible limit’ was misleading, as the Food Safety and Standard Authority of India (FSSAI) has prohibited any form of preservative for fish and said that fresh fish or shellfish should be preserved only by means of ice without any chemical.

“The officials who have prepared the report know that formalin was found in all the samples when the spot test was conducted. They are also well aware of the FSSAI Acts/rules that the use of formalin is prohibited for preserving fish,” the sources said adding that poison is poison irrespective of whether one takes it in small quantity or large quantity.

The sources also questioned the standard operating procedure (SOP) adopted by FDA while drawing the sample and the transportation of samples from Margao to the department’s laboratory located in Bambolim.

“Marine fish naturally contains a certain amount of formalin and it is true. However, in this particular case, upon conducting the spot test, the FDA found heavy presence of formalin, which was lethal enough to kill a human being. However, while bringing the samples to the laboratory they brought them in room temperature and they did not maintain the same temperature at which the fish had arrived in Goa from outside,” the sources said adding that it was a major negligence on part of the FDA team. He further said that there are higher chances of the chemical getting evaporated which could be another reason for the report to be faulty.

Further, the sources also questioned the method of test undertaken by the FDA’s laboratory team. The source claimed that the FDA is lacking in facilities to conduct tests to detect formalin in fish. “The FDA didn’t follow the legal aspect while drawing the samples and it drew them only for self-observation. As per the law, they are also required to draw multiple samples including for the court. In this case, as they didn’t follow the SOP, hence no one can challenge the report of the FDA in the court of law,” the sources said.

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