Bihar has banned the sale of fish brought into the state from Andhra Pradesh over concerns that the fish may contain formalin, a known carcinogen. According to reports, the ban has been imposed for 15 days in Bihar's capital city Patna after formalin was detected in some of the consignments brought from Andhra Pradesh. Formalin, a cancer-inducing chemical, is used to preserve the fish and is also used in preserving dead bodies.
Sanjay Sinha, the Principal Secretary of Bihar's Health Department, told the media earlier this week that ban will continue on sale, storage and transportation of fish from Andhra Pradesh, as well as fish brought in from West Bengal, after laboratory tests confirmed the presence of a high content of formalin and heavy metals like lead and cadmium in the consignments.
Bihar government agencies have now decided to randomly collect fish samples from different districts of the state and get those tested. If the tests are found to be positive, the ban would be imposed across the state, Sinha added.
Speaking to TNM, a top official from Bihar government said that the decision to ban the selling and storing of Andhra fish in Patna was taken by the state health department and Patna Municipality Authorities. “After tests were conducted by the Kolkata Port Testing Laboratory, the fish samples from different local markets in the city of Patna were found to contain formalin. Patna Municipality has therefore banned the selling and conserving of fish from Andhra," he said, on the condition of anonymity.
Following Bihar government’s decision to ban Andhra fish imports to Patna, it has been reported that Jharkhand, which is also one of the major buyers of Andhra Pradesh fish, has alerted it's health department to collect the samples and perform tests.
This is not the first time that the import and sale of fishery exports of Andhra Pradesh have been under the scanner. In July 2018, north-eastern states like Assam, Meghalaya and Nagaland had imposed a ban on fish imported from Andhra, prompting Andhra CM Chandrababu Naidu to write to the respective governments.
At the time, Naidu called the allegations an attempt to defame the state's brand in fish business and discourage exports from Andhra and had sought that the genuineness of the allegations be ascertained. Following visits by officials and governments negotiations, Assam then reinstated the sale of fish from the state, according to reports.
When TNM contacted the Andhra Pradesh State Fisheries Department Commissioner Rama Sankar Naik about the ban of fish in Patna, he said that "something is wrong" and that similar allegations are being made time and again.
“We have learnt through reports of the ban imposed on Andhra fish by Bihar authorities. We are writing to the concerned state officials to come and oversee the procedure we follow here," he said.
Naik said that the export of fish is being monitored by state Fisheries and Health Department officials along with FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Authority of India) authorities.
"We allow traders to export their fish only after certain verification is complete. But the allegations of finding formalin is something that is being repeated. There also is a scope for formalin contamination when the stock is unloaded in the respective states it is sent to," he added.
He added that officials are to go to Bihar and clarify their doubts as they did in the state of Nagaland and other north-eastern states where the ban has been revoked.
(With IANS inputs)