Why Formalin in fishes?
There are different fishing techniques used. Traditional fishing are human powered, they do not venture out for weeks and would return to shore once they have a catch. This is almost a daily activity. With the motorized boats and ships, fishermen can venture in to the open ocean for weeks and could also stay in for months before they bring back their catch to the shore and sell them to factories and markets. Primary mode of preserving the fish is cold storage. Fish is packed with crushed ice and stored in a thermal insulated environment. Just this can store fishes for days and some cases even weeks. Greed and ease of use has introduced Formalin in to this simple process. Formalin is sprayed or in some cased being added to the ice itself to preserve fishes. This way the fish looks fresh for days or weeks.
Why Formalin is a problem now?This problem is all around the world. Many countries have stringent control over permissible amount of Formalin in food items. In few countries where the food authority is not stringent, people have a free hand to play with our food.
With the reports of fishes glazed with Formalin found in Kerala, that were brought from Tamil Nadu was the red flag. TN gvt did not jump in to it right away, The Hindu conducted their own investigation and reported this story with all the necessary evidence. It was only then it was a wake-up call for everyone. News media started reporting and Gvt from their side has gone in to a defensive mode to avoid panic. Ex gvt officials have now come out telling that Formalin and in some cases even bleaching powder is used on fishes to keep them fresh. After the news from the South, now reports are coming from Assam, Odisha and other parts of the country that Formalin is found in Fishes that are meant for human consumption.
These substances even in traces could cause long term kidney, liver and lungs related problem. It will cause itchiness in some cases and also breathing problem for few. Unconfirmed reports also say long term exposure to Formalin may cause cancer.
Only Fish or what else?
Formalin is not used only on fishes, when the greedy wants to make money, you and me are the victims. Formalin is quiet literally used on all forms of animal meat, milk, fruits and vegetables to increase their shelf life, so that the industry need not waste what can be sold if it can be kept fresh for a longer period of time. Only the fish industry has come under the microscope, others would when there is an incident and media houses see there is a 5 min story they can report, until then these will go on.
How to remove Formalin from Fish, Dry Fish, Vegetables and Fruits?
- Formalin forms a layer on top of the food item that is sprayed up on, it is always best to peel off the skin of the vegetable or fruit if you do not know the source or the preservation method used before it lands on your shopping basket.
- Formalin is water soluble, we can take advantage of this property and dilute the concentrate of formalin in the food. You can soak the fish, vegetable, fruit in fresh water for an hour, this is dilute Formalin, you can then rinse it well and again soak it in water for another 15 min to remove any trace of Formalin again.
- A better method will be to use salt along with water while you soak it for the first one hour, salt will help break down Formalin better.
- If you are fine with the taste, the best method will be to soak the fish/vegetable/fruits in a solution made from 95% water and 5% cooking grade vinegar. Also add in a pinch of turmeric powder along with this solution. Once you let the food item soaked in for 1 hour, it will reduce the concentrate. After this, rise the item completely and let it soak in fresh water for another 15 min before you start cooking.
- Formalin in milk cannot be cleaned. You can only see for yourself if any unnatural preservative has been used. If you have a doubt on the milk that you receive, take a small sample and leave it outside without refrigeration over night. Raw milk will go sour (get spoil), if there is no preservative used. If the milk is still fresh even when you boil, there are chances of foul play.
Unless our Food authorities take strict action against those people behind this toxic practice, people will still have a free hand to play with the food we eat. More over, we are paying for the toxic we buy and eat. In this day and age, being aware and asking the right questions is the first line of defense. I hope this blog gives you some information and will help you in making a right and healthy choice when it comes to your food and how cautious you can be for yourself and your family.
With a toxic filled world, this is just one more to beware of, this will not stop me from having my fish. I will just be cautious and me personally will continue to have my favorite fishes.