Multiple raids on wholesale fish markets in Goa stoked controversy after a spot inspection by Food Drug Administration staff revealed a carcinogenic preservative formaldehyde's presence in fish, but after a minister's tweet giving a clean chit to the wholesalers, on Thursday claimed that the chemical's levels were within permissible limits.
The raids were conducted at the state's main wholesale market near Margao town in South Goa and in the fish market in the state capital on Monday. Following the raids, fish markets associations closed down the market places in protest for the rest of the day.
The Goa FDA, in a statement issued here on Thursday, said that the raids were conducted after media reports suggested that the fish being sold at the wholesale markets was laced with formaldehyde to preserve the fish for long periods. Similar raids have been conducted at wholesale fish markets by FDA units in other states to crackdown on use of formalin to store fish.
"Team visited the wholesale fish market at Margao and collected samples of fish mainly from vehicles from other states such as Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. The samples tested positive, showing presence of formaldehyde.
"Hence as an abundant precaution, the fish vendors were instructed not to distribute the stock of fish till such time the detailed laboratory reports were available," the statement said, adding that the samples of fish were later taken to the organisation''s laboratory for analysis.
"The results obtained for all the samples are found within permissible limits. The samples are thus declared to be safe for consumption. The whole process of sampling as well as detained analysis was undertaken on top priority basis, keeping in ind the perishable nature of fish," it added.
The raids however took a political turn, with Agriculture Minister Vijai Sardesai taking to Twitter to claim that the fish samples were safe for consumption even as FDA officials were still compiling their laboratory reports.
"Any knee-jerk action aimed at creating panic is uncalled for. Have spoken to the CM and concerned authorities expressing this view. Thankfully, FDA has now confirmed that reports indicate fish showing no trace of formalin and hence safe," he tweeted.
The Congress has now accused Mr Sardesai of playing with the lives of people of Goa for whom fish is a part of a staple diet and coercing the FDA officials into releasing a manipulated test report.
"They are playing with the lives of Goans by allowing fish with formaldehyde. This fish mafia should be taken to task... The minister has virtually coerced the FDA staff to give favourable results by giving the fish mafia a clean chit, even before the test results were declared," Congress spokesperson Urfan Mulla said.
Cheap and fresh fish was the poll plank of several political parties in Goa in the run up to the 2017 assembly polls.