All others consignments have tested negative
The Bhutan Agriculture Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA), in a notification issued on Friday said that after seeing recent news about use of formalin in fresh fish in India and concern by consumers, BAFRA, had taken proactive action in testing all fresh fish consignment entering Bhutan at all border entry points using formalin detection test kits from 3rd July 2018.
BAFRA said that till July 18, 2018, all fresh fish imported into Bhutan tested negative to formalin adulteration.
On 19th July 2018, fish species; Pankaj and Rui consistently tested positive to formalin presence in two consignments when tested at Phuentsholing which are seized and disposed off as per the Livestock Rules and Regulation 2017.
BAFRA said that from 1st August 2018, all import of fresh fish into Bhutan will be done from Export Inspection Council (EIC), India certified supply sources thereby ensuring the products free of pesticides, heavy metal and formalin etc.
BAFRA, however, will continue to conduct formalin test for all fresh fish consignment entering Bhutan to ensure they are free from formalin and are safe for human consumption.
About a few weeks ago, it was reported in Indian news media that several states in India like Goa, Nagaland and Manipur among others imposed a ban on the entry of fish following the seizure of fish contaminated with formalin, a toxic chemical commonly used to preserve dead bodies in mortuaries. It was being used to prevent fish from deteriorating during transportation. Fish contaminated with formalin were detected in Andra Pradesh, Assam and Northeast markets.
Immediately, BAFRA carried out formalin test on fresh fish at four entry points like Phuentsholing, Samdrup Jongkhar, Gelephu and Samtse.
A BAFRA official said, “According to the experts, consumption of formalin contaminated food is health hazard. The Ministry of Public Health, Thailand issued a notification that specified prohibition of the use of formalin in food.
However, formalin is still detected in many kinds of food. The Government Pharmaceutical Organization (GPO) has produced the test kit for formalin in food which was developed and the technology was transferred by GPO to the Department of Medical Sciences. The test kit can be easily used outside the laboratory with fast and reliable result.”
The BAFRA official said, “The two species of fish imported from Andra Pradesh, Pankaj and Rahu tested positive. Fish contaminated with formalin are seized and disposed without paying compensation. On 19th July, BAFRA seized eight boxes of fish contaminated with formalin. One box contains 40 kg of fish. BAFRA seized and disposed the fish without paying compensation as per the Livestock Rules and Regulations 2017”.
According to BAFRA, “Some Indian wholesaler stopped importing fish as the fish contaminated with formalin were sized and disposed without compensation.”
He said, “BAFRA will continue to inspect the fish. BAFRA signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Export Inspection Council (EIC), a food regulatory authority in India which states that EIC as food regulatory authority shall inspect the fish for Bhutan and shall ensure that the fish imported from India is safe for consumption and if the fish from India is found to be contaminated with formalin or any other toxic chemical, EIC shall be held accountable. But at the same time, BAFRA shall also inspect the fish coming from India from time to time.”
The BAFRA official said, “Being a regulatory authority, we are concerned about the safety of our consumers and we assure that the food we import not just from India but also from other countries are safe for our consumers”.
Fish importers in Gelephu and Samdrupjongkhar have stopped importing fish while some continue to import through Phuentsholing with BAFRA checks.