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Andhra to probe formalin residue in fish exports to NE
SANJOY RAY

 
 GUWAHATI, July 11 - The Andhra Pradesh (AP) government has constituted two state-level task forces and nine district-level coastal area inspection teams to examine harmful residue, including formalin, in fishes exported to Assam and other northeastern states, after its Chief Minister Chandrababu Naidu directed the officials to ascertain the facts.

A demi-official letter has already been written to the chief secretaries of Assam and other northeastern states apprising them about the issue. A high-level Andhra Pradesh government team is also likely to visit Guwahati to assess the situation. Andhra Pradesh is one of the biggest exporters of fish to Assam and other northeastern states.

Further, in order to do away with the apprehensions and ensure food safety, the Andhra Pradesh government has also made quality checks mandatory for every consignment before leaving the source of production.

“The fish carrying boxes meant for export will be certified from the government and will be sealed,” informed Ram Shankar Naik, Commissioner of the Andhra Pradesh Fishery Department, while talking to The Assam Tribune.

He, however, stated that not a single case of fish containing formalin has been detected during its ongoing inspection drives in the southern coastal state, but expressed apprehension that the harmful residue might be the result of repackaging en route, probably in the Howrah market in West Bengal.

Andhra Pradesh fisheries department Joint Secretary Dr E Ramesh Kumar will take stock of the situation in the southern state tomorrow and interact with the fish farmers in West Godavari district.

The Assam government on Tuesday had restricted the import of fish from outside the State after traces of formalin residue were found in them.

Naik informed that the task force, each headed by an officer of the rank of additional director, has been asked to leave no stone unturned to inspect and find out if the fish farmers are resorting to any unhealthy practices.

“Apart from the state fishery department officials, the task force will have officials from the Central government agencies like Marine Products Export Development Authority and the Export Inspection Council of India,” Naik said.

Meanwhile, the Andhra Pradesh Fish Traders and Packers’ Association has smelt a rat in the entire episode, stating that it is very unlikely that farmers from Andhra Pradesh would resort to such unhealthy practises, as is being shown in some videos.

“The (Andhra Pradesh) Chief Minister in a meeting on July 2 had asked the officials to take appropriate measures in this regard... We also urge the government to properly investigate the matter as it involves the lives of lakhs of farmers,” said U Krishna Prasad, president of the association.

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