Through a notification dated 10 June 2019 the FSSAI has issued directions regarding the fixing of ad-hoc limit of formaldehyde in fish and fisheries products as there have reports of several instances of adulteration of fish by using Formalin (Formaldehyde in water).
Formalin is added to extend the storage life of fish or chilled fish and artificially improves the sensory attributes. Consumption of such fish may cause adverse health conditions such as abdominal pain, vomiting, renal injury etc. Consumption or exposure to excessive amounts of formalin can cause negative health effects like cancer.
This issue was examined by the concerned Scientific Panel of the FSSAI. The Scientific Panel has recommended a detailed assessment. However, taking into account the instructions of the Hon’ble High Court of Bombay at Goa as well as scientific (technical and methodological) issues related to formaldehyde, it has been decided to set the following as an ad hoclimit of naturally occurring formaldehyde till a final assessment is done:
|Food Category Name||Food Category||Ad hoc Limit (mg/Kg) max|
|09.1||Fresh fish including molluscs, crustaceans and echinoderms||Fresh water: 4.0 Brackish water/ Marine origin: 100.0|
The above ad hoc limits shall be applicable till such time as the Scientific Panel recommends the final limit for naturally occurring formaldehyde.The provisions of this direction are already in force as from 10 June 2019.
About Formaldehyde in Fish
Formaldehyde is a chemical used for the manufacture of plastic resins for wood, paper and textile industry. Formalin, on the other hand is a solution which has about 37% formaldehyde and is used as a household disinfectant besides being used as a preservative.
It is a well-known fact that fish is a highly perishable commodity, if the storage temperature is not maintained at 50C. Therefore, some people use formalinto increase the shelf life of the fish especially if the fish have to travel long distances from the place of the catch, so they remain preserved and look fresh.
Formaldehyde on the other hand also exists naturally in many animal and plant specieslike fruits and vegetables, meats, fish, crustacea and dried mushrooms. Ingestion of a small amount of naturally occurring formaldehyde does not have an acute effecton health unlike formaldehyde which is used in large amounts as a food preservative. However, the level of formaldehyde can accumulate in certain marine fish during frozen storage and crustacea after death.
Consumers must ensure food safety by washing foods thoroughly in running tap water. Since formaldehyde is soluble in water washing can help to remove formaldehyde. You can also cook foods thoroughly till the internal temperature reaches 75°C or above, as cooking heat can help remove formaldehyde. Do not buy fish that has turned opaque or if the flesh easily separates.
FBOs using fish as food products must ensure that they buy fish only from credible sources. They must ensure that they do not add more formaldehyde in the fish to increase the shelf life of fish products.