There’s bad news for fish lovers in India. Formalin, a cancer-inducing chemical, was recently found in the fish which were purchased for the purpose of conducting a study. Also in the month of June, the Kerala food safety department officials had seized nearly 9,600 kgs of fish preserved in formalin.
Formalin is derived from formaldehyde and it is popularly known as a cancer-causing chemical. Formalin is used to increase the shelf life of fresh food. It is mainly used to preserve bodies in mortuaries. In the short term, formalin can cause nausea, coughing and a burning sensation in the eyes. It can cause cancer if it is consumed over a long period of time.
We all know fish is a highly perishable product and it gets spoilt very soon, if it is not maintained at the proper temperature of 5 degree Celsius. The chemicals such as formalin and ammonia are used by the sellers to increase the shelf life of the fish. Usually, formalin is used if the fish has to be transported to far off places.
Formalin has got a strong smell, but the formalin used in preserving seafood is diluted, so that the smell is not easily detectable.
I am sure that after knowing formalin is being used to preserve fish, you might have stopped bringing fish home. Instead of doing so, you can reduce the risk of picking fish laced with formalin, through some simple methods.
This is how you can reduce the risk of picking fish laced with harmful chemicals.
How to identify false signs of freshness?
Speak to fishermen and make enquiries them regarding where and how fish was caught. It is better to avoid buying fish from supermarkets. Try to purchase fish directly from small-scale fishermen. This may be possible, only if you live in the coastal regions.
The red gills of the fish are used to detect the freshness of the fish. Reddish maroon reflects freshness, whereas maroonish-black is a sign of decay. If the fish is laced with formalin, it retains the red colored gills. But, it might be a false symbol of freshness. So gauge the appearance of the fish as a whole.
One way to detect if the fish is fresh or not, is by looking at its eyes. The fresh fish will have clear eyes. The eyes of the fish which are dead for more than two days, start becoming cloudy.
The firmness of the raw fish at room temperature helps identify whether it is fresh or not. The meat should not be rubbery, instead it should be firm. If the flesh is rubbery, it means it is laced with formalin. If it is soft, it means the fish has started decaying.
The smell of the fish can help identify if it is fresh or not. Usually, fresh fish does not smell fishy. The fish gives a fishy smell, only when it starts decaying. The fresh fish will have a salty smell. But, the fish which is laced with formalin will not have a fishy smell. However, you can distinguish between formalin-contaminated and fresh fish with the help of flies. Flies never sit on formalin-contaminated fish. So, it is better to buy fish which have a lot of flies sitting on them.