The Foods and Drugs Authority (FDA) has criticized Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Prof Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng for failing to first inform the Authority about the use of cancer-causing agent, Formalin in preserving ‘koobi’, dried tilapia, before he put it out in the public domain.
Prof Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, during a working visit to the Food Research Institute (FRI) and the Industrial Research Institute (IRR) of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) stated that Formalin, which is a chemical used to prevent dead bodies from decomposing, is being used by the traders to preserve the fish; thus making it stiff, have a rubbery feel, clear eyes, red gills and take away its odour as well as drive away flies.
He therefore cautioned those involved in the act to desist from it since it was dangerous to human health.
“Hitherto, opening the gills of koobi exposed salt placed there. Koobi was a little softer and when you put it somewhere flies will be attracted to it. These days you put koobi there and even flies will not go there.”
“So we want the few people who are destroying that industry to stop. Don’t preserve koobi with formalin, it is dangerous, it can cause cancer and it is dangerous everywhere,” he said.
“Tell the traders to stop using formalin but instead use salt to preserve koobi”, Prof Frimpong-Boateng added.
But the Head of the Animal Products and Biosafety Department of the FDA, Kofi Essel, stated that as a regulatory body responsible for food safety it should have been notified of such findings so that it acts accordingly to ensure public safety.
“The FDA is hearing this news about formalin in Koobie for the first time, for how long has this practice been ongoing? For us as the FDA, whenever a Scientist or the academia or a research institution conducts a research on our foods and has information of such nature, the finding must not be held on to, the relevant authority must be informed immediately so we can put things right because of the huge numbers of people who consume the food.”
He added: “Because formalin is not known to be used in preserving dried tilapia, in our normal testing of foods, we don’t look out for formalin in ”koobi”…that is not part of the protocol. If there’s such finding, we’ll immediately act to ensure the public is safe.”
What is formalin
Formalin is a colourless strong-smelling chemical substance usually used in industry of textiles, plastics, papers, paint, construction, and well known to preserve human corpse.
It is derived from formaldehyde gas dissolved in water, post on the site of the BIMC Hospital Nusa Dua, the first hospital in Indonesia with accreditation from Australian Council on Healthcare Standard International (ACHSI), has explained.
Exposure from its gas or vapour could cause irritation to the eyes, nose and respiratory tract, causing sneezing, sore throat, larynx constriction, bronchitis and pneumonia. Multiple exposures can lead to asthma. It can also affect the skin, causing dermatitis or allergic reaction.