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Food safety officials keep close watch on Bihu markets

Four fish samples sent to state lab in Guwahati for tests

GUWAHATI: The food and drugs administration department here has initiated a drive to check the quality of milk and fish sold in the markets as Assam braces for Bhogali Bihu, the feasting festival.

Food safety officers are also keeping a close eye on the readymade traditional Assamese delicacies dished out at the pre-Magh Bihu Melas as people throng the fairs to keep the assorted stocks, along with the home-made variety, ready for uruka (the feasting night) on Monday, and the day after.

Speaking to The Shillong Times on Saturday, Tarun Das, senior food safety officer of the department, informed that four samples were collected from the wholesale fish market at Betkuchi as part of the drive and sent to the State Public Health Laboratory at Bamunimaidan for tests.

The state laboratory now has modern machines equipped with German technology.

“The four samples from three varieties of challani fish from Andhra Pradesh were collected as we suspect they might be laced with formalin. However, that will be known only after lab tests in a few days time. As it is, we have been conducting spot tests in fish markets from time to time, and have not found any sample testing positive in the past couple of months,” Das said.

Assam had banned the entry of fish imported from outside the state for 10 days in July last year after detection of formalin (formaldehyde), a carcinogenic chemical, in a sample collected from the market at Betkuchi, where bulk of the stocks come from Andhra Pradesh.

Subsequently, 100 formaldehyde detection kits were procured from a German multinational pharmaceutical major.

“The kits have come in very handy for spot checks. As of now though, some of them have gone past their expiry dates and we are not using them till another batch arrives. But the spot checks did not find any formalin presence except for prawn (imported from Secunderabad) samples about four months back for which we had lodged a case,” he said.

Meanwhile, as much as 70 tonnes of fish are expected for sale on uruka this time in the Uzanbazar wholesale market, the genesis of which goes back to the year 1815.

“We expect at least 70 tonnes of fish on uruka but the prices would be determined by the demand and availability of stocks on that day. Varieties such as sitol, ari, rou, bhakua et al, weighing up to 12kg or more will be there for the taking,” Bhaskar Das, secretary of the Brihattar Uzanbazar Anusuchito Nibonua Matsya Byabasayee Santha, said.

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