Formalin-laced fish: State government should initiate action against erring traders — NVCO
Dimapur June 27 (EMN): Considering the recent seizure of formalin injected fish in the state capital as a serious case, the Nagaland Voluntary Consumers’ Organisation (NVCO) has asked the state government to set up an appropriate committee to trace and punish the persons who were indulging in this health hazardous business and arrest the unscrupulous traders who were involved in this shady deal.
In a press release, President NVCO Kezhokhoto Savi, said that the present case cannot end here but to file an FIR so as to allow the investigating agency to arrest the unscrupulous traders who were purposely using various hazardous edibles just to make money at the cost of public life.
The NVCO lauded the team work of the analysis wing (State Public Health Laboratory, Kohima) and the Enforcement wing Kohima (food safety officials) for timely detection.
Since inception of the implementation of Food Safety & Standard Act of 2006 in the state, the NVCO stated that for the first time the Food Safety Commissioner, Nagaland had issued a blanket ban on storage, distribution and sale of fresh fish products treated with formalin. Highly toxic and carcinogenic, formalin is used to preserve death bodies in mortuaries, it informed.
Pointing out that the commissioner-secretary to the dept. of Health & Family Welfare had earlier failed to hold the responsibility of State Food Authority as Food Safety commissioner, the NVCO opined that to strictly enforce the Food Safety & Standard Act 2006, every state must have the separate commissioner of Food Safety commissioner.
“Lately one of the most neglected departments showed an eye-opener to the public and the state government by truly showing food safety in action by conducting fish testing on the site with its limited equipments,” the organisation stated.
The NVCO appealed to state government to take advantage of this detection as an opening to a flood gate in checking the unscrupulous traders as this case is just tip of iceberg and a good beginning goes a long way.
The NVCO said that it is very encouraging to see the State Public Health Laboratory situated at Merhulietsa (Paramedical) colony in Kohima is in full swing undergoing testing fish samples brought from Dimapur and Mokokchung markets and other items such as suspected plastic rice, rum(liquor), fruits, vegetables, etc.
The organisation asserted that the state government has to put more concentration on this issue stating that food safety is concern to all whether rich or poor, young or old, educated or illiterate.
It also insisted that public should be aware of certain food business operators (FBOs) selling powdered spices adulterated with artificial non-edible colours and also using carbide gas for artificially repining of fruits, which are harmful for human consumption. Selling 20 litre and 1 litre packaged drinking water without obtaining BIS certification of FSSAI is illegal and amounts to unsafe, the NVCO stated.
The NVCO asked the public to report related complaints to the chief medical officers / food safety officers of the districts, or food safety commissioner, or additional food safety commissioner for any information on food adulteration.
It also informed that the designated officer (CMO) / food safety officers of the districts have been directed to carry out inspection under its jurisdiction and submit the report to the food safety commissioner.
The food authority is also suggested to undertake activity and programme for dissemination of information, education and awareness.
The NVCO informed that it would be launching its yearly awareness campaign considering the topic on Food Safety & Standard at the top list.
The organisation also suggested having slaughterhouse with proper hygiene and maintenance instruments and to be regularly checked by the concern.
The NVCO appealed to public to be aware of hazardous issues such as adulterants, colorants and chemicals that are found in most of the food items sold and consumed everyday and also the expiry food items including medicines.
The consumer chief Savi said that under the Consumer Protection Act of 1986, the consumers have the right to safety, they are protected against marketing of goods and services which are hazardous to life, and therefore, the goods which are hazardous to health is illegal and punishable.
Sample test awaits; DCCI bans import of fish
The Dimapur Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) has informed that for the safety of the consumers, the import of fish by the business community has been banned till the test result arrives.
The samples of fish were collected from importers and sent to Guwahati for further testing to ascertain the presence of formalin in the fish. If the test was found positive the DCCI said it will take action against the business firms involved in unethical business practices.
The DCCI has requested the public not to make haste conclusion as the result was still awaited.
DCCI further notified that they were working overtime to ensure quality products to the consumers and requested the public to be vigilant and inform the DCCI about any business malpractices in the city.
Meanwhile, the DCCI appreciated the department of Health and Welfare for banning the sale of formalin injected fish which was a cause of concern for consumers’ health.
Things to know about formalin
Formalin is a colourless strong-smelling chemical substance usually used in industry of textiles, plastics, papers, paint, construction, and well known to preserve human corpse. It is derived from formaldehyde gas dissolved in water.
In view of its widespread use, toxicity, and volatility, formaldehyde poses a significant danger to human health. In 2011, the US National Toxicology Program described formaldehyde as “known to be a human carcinogen”.
Effects of formalin
Exposure from its gas or vapour can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and respiratory tract, causing sneezing, sore throat, larynx constriction, bronchitis and pneumonia. Multiple exposures can lead to asthma. It can also affect the skin, causing dermatitis or allergic reaction.
Serious inhalation or ingestion can cause severe pain with inflammation ulceration and necrosis of the mucous membranes, which line almost every internal organ. This may show as symptoms of nausea, vomiting blood, diarrhoea with bloody stool, blood from the urine, acidosis, vertigo, and circulation failure, then death.
According to the Food Safety and Standards Act of 2006, the Ministry of Law and Justice of Legislative Department has laid down various penalties with regard to the food safety breach in the country. In the act, Chapter IX has contained offences and penalties of food security breach. Some of the penalties relating to the ongoing crisis of poisonous fish are-
Penalty for failure to comply with the directions of Food Safety officer: If a food business operator or importer without reasonable ground, fails to comply with the requirements of this Act or the rules or regulations or orders issued thereunder, as directed by the Food Safety Officer, he shall be liable to a penalty which may extend to INR two lakh.
Penalty for unhygienic or unsanitary processing or manufacturing of food: Any person who, whether by himself or by any other person on his behalf, manufactures or processes any article of food for human consumption under unhygienic or unsanitary conditions, shall be liable to a penalty which may extend to INR one lakh.
Penalty for possessing adulterant: Subject to the provisions of this chapter, if any person who whether by himself or by any other person on his behalf, imports or manufactures for sale, or stores, sells or distribute any adulterant shall be liable –
(i) Where such adulterant is not injurious to health, to a penalty not exceeding INR two lakh.
(ii) Where such adulterant is injurious to health, to a penalty not exceeding INR ten lakh.
In a proceeding under sub-section (1), it shall not be a defence that the accused was holding such adulterant on behalf of any other person.
Penalty for contraventions for which no specific penalty is provided: Whoever contravenes any provisions of this Act or the rules or regulations made there under, for the contravention of which no penalty has been separately provided in this chapter, shall be liable to a penalty which may extend to INR two lakh.
Punishment for unsafe food: Any person who, whether by himself or by any other person on his behalf, manufactures for sale or stores or sells or distributes or imports any article of food for human consumption which is unsafe, shall be punishable,–
(i) Contravention that does not result in injury, with imprisonment up to six months and with fine up to INR one lakh.
(ii) Contravention results in a non-grievous injury, with imprisonment up to a year and also with fine up to INR three lakh.
(iii) Contravention results in a grievous injury, with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six years and with fine upto INR five lakh.
(iv) Contravention results in death, with imprisonment not less than seven years and may extend to imprisonment for life, with fine which shall not be less than INR ten lakh.
(Food Safety and Standards Authority of India)