Parrikar bans fish imports for 15 days, evades queries on use of formalin

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Panaji, July 18 (IANS) Refusing to clarify whether the fish from neighbouring states contained formalin, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Wednesday banned the entry of fish consignments into the state for 15 days.

The decision comes a day before the upcoming monsoon session of the Goa Legislative Assembly, even as the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government has faced criticism for trying to downplay the role of fish traders and their alleged use of formalin and a u-turn by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) officials, who first seized fish consignments for use of formalin and later claimed that the powerful disinfectant was within “permissible limits”.

“If we stop the import of fish for 15 days, then this question will be resolved. From August 1, Goan trawlers will hit the seas to fish, there will be no need for transporting fish from far. Therefore from today, there will be a ban on the import of fish,” Parrikar said.

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State FDA officials, after a raid on outstation fish consignments from Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra, had claimed that formalin was used to preserve fish.

But soon after the raid, Agriculture Minister Vijai Sardesai tweeted that the fish was fit for consumption, following which the FDA in a statement said that the chemical was “within permissible limits”.

Fish markets over the last few days have worn a desolate look, with consumers laying-off from purchasing fish in view of the ongoing controversy.

Parrikar on Wednesday said that the ban was announced “only as an abundant caution in the interest of the health of the citizens, to avoid controversies and confusion”.

However, despite repeated queries, the Chief Minister refused to clarify whether the fish which was consumed over the last couple of months was laced with formalin.

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“I am not going into tests, since I have banned the fish. There is no point in discussing (these) issues, which possibly no one has understood properly. So I will not comment on that,” he said.

“The basic issue is, in order to ensure safe food and fish being a staple food, 15-day ban has been imposed. Meantime, FDA will make arrangements for a permanent checking facility on the front (state borders),” he added.

The Chief Minister also said that the state FDA did not have adequate mechanism to check fish consignments being brought into the state and the 15-day ban period would help fix the gap.

“Let FDA set up proper facilities in the meantime to ensure that testing is done regularly and frequently. We do not have enough facilities. It (fish consignments) is coming from all sides, you require teams. That too early morning. Let the controversy die down. Let FDA set up proper facilities and they will check after that,” he said.

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Fish is a staple food for locals in Goa and the state’s seafood is popular among tourists.

–IANS

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