SHILLONG, July 6 - The Meghalaya Government has directed officials to collect samples of fishes to find if they are laced with formalin, a carcinogenic substance.
The directive was given by the Fisheries Department and officials today collected samples from some markets in the Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills and Garo Hills districts.
On Thursday, fish samples were sent to the Public Health Laboratory (PHL) at Bamunimaidan in Guwahati, SN Sangma, Food Safety Deputy Commissioner, said.
�We have asked the PHL to expedite the test and send the report on the basis of which action will be taken. However, samples sent last year tested negative for formalin.�
Meanwhile, Chief Minister Conrad Sangma today said that the departments concerned have been asked to conduct a study on various kinds of fish imported into the State. We need to ascertain if they meet the health safety standards.�
Sangma observed that there are issues of adulteration in other food products too. The situation is very critical and the Government will take action, he said.
�We are buying German test kits from Guwahati and these will be provided to all the 11 districts of the State so that we can conduct formalin tests in the State in the near future,� Sangma said.
Meghalaya is deficient in fish production and a large quantity of fish is imported from Andhra Pradesh. Some fishes suspected of being laced with formalin are rohu (Labeo rohita of the carp family), catla (Lobeo catla) and prawns.
According to reports, these fishes are injected with formalin to prevent their decay through the long journey from the southern State to different parts of the North East and eastern States.
Formalin or formaldehyde, which causes cancer, is commonly used as an industrial fungicide, germicide and disinfectant, and as a preservative in mortuaries and medical laboratories.
Manipur and Nagaland have already banned imported fish after traces of formalin were found.
According to sources, several fish distributors in the North East have taken on lease fisheries in Andhra Pradesh. Some of these distributors are responsible for the use of formalin in fishes and the Andhra Pradesh Government has turned a blind eye to this illegal use of formalin despite several States reporting the use of formalin in fishes imported from Andhra Pradesh.