Bihar bans fish trade in Patna due to presence of formalin, heavy metals

Bihar government has banned the sale, storage and transportation of all kinds of fishes within the municipal area of Patna. The ban, initially for 15 days, was imposed after high contents of formalin, lead, mercury and cadmium were found in fish samples. 

The ban has been imposed under the provisions of the Food Safety and Standards Act, 2006. The violation of the ban is punishable with imprisonment up to seven years and a fine of Rs 10 lakh.  

The decision was taken to prevent ailments due to consumption of such fishes, said the health department officials. "We had collected fish samples last October from various locations within the Patna Municipal Corporation area and sent them to Food Security Laboratory (FSL), Kolkata, for testing," said Sanjay Kumar, principal secretary health department and food safety commission for Bihar. Of the collected samples, six were from Andhra Pradesh, two from West Bengal and two were locally sourced.

"Last week, we received those test results back and they confirmed the presence of formalin in seven out of 10 samples and heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium in all of the samples. Therefore, keeping in mind public health safety, we have decided to impose a ban on the sale, transportation and storage of fishes for a fortnight in Patna Municipal Corporation area," added Kumar. 

Used for preserving fish, formalin is a carcinogenic substance, while heavy metals such as lead, mercury and cadmium affect human kidneys, bones, liver, brain and reduce immunity.

The government has also instructed food safety officials to collect "legal samples" from other major fish consuming districts such as Muzaffarpur, Purnea, Bhagalpur, Gaya, and Darbhanga, among others, and send them to FSL. 

The department will also request the Animal and Fisheries Resources Department to send a team to Andhra Pradesh and West Bengal to ascertain the sources of heavy metals and formalin in fish, said the officer. The state government has also initiated the process of notifying these states about the lab results, he added.    

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