Goa Minister apologises for formalin remark, Basa fish on FDA radar

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Panaji, July 20 (IANS) Even though Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar has refused to answer whether fish sold in Goa actually contained formalin, Health Minister Vishwajit Rane on Friday apologised publicly for his use of term “permissible limit” which has now become a butt joke in social media.

Rane further said that “Basa”, a catfish imported largely from Malaysia and served in large numbers to restaurants in the tourism-friendly coastal belt, would now be under the scanner of Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) as it is also said to be laced with preservatives.

“I would like to apologise for my remark on ‘permissible limit’ for using the wrong terminology. As I have said earlier, I will push for a permanent ban on import of fish and will appeal to the government for the same,” Rane said in a Facebook post on Friday.

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Rane’s use of the term “permissible limit” in reference to the presence of formalin — a powerful disinfectant used to preserve cadavers — in seized fish consignments last week has been used in a series of memes in the social media.

Experts like scientists at the National Institute of Oceanography have already said that formalin per se cannot be used to preserve fish, which is meant for consumption.

The proceedings of the Goa Legislative Assembly had to be adjourned for the second consecutive day on Friday, with the opposition putting the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-led coalition government on the mat over the issue of use of formalin, a carcinogenic chemical, in fish consignments imported into Goa from other states.

Although the Chief Minister has already banned import of fish from other states for 15 days and promised to make a formal statement on the issue in the House on Monday, he has not formally clarified on the quantum of formalin used in the fish sold in Goa or whether criminal action would be taken against those indulging in the sale of formalin-laced fish, as demanded by the opposition.

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Rane, who is also Minister for the FDA Department, in his social media post has already sought a complete ban on the import of fish from other states “in the interest of public health”.

He also said that imported consignments of Basa fish, a relatively cheap catfish native to the Mekong region in South East Asia, would also be under the FDA scanner because of reported use of preservatives.

Besides the checks on Basa fish, the FDA would also continue its checks on chicken and vegetables without causing any trouble to the people,” Rane said.

On account of the low price tag, imported Basa fish are served in the form of fried fillets or in fish curry by restaurants across Goa’s coastal belt.

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