By Joyce Bedeley
Some consumers of salted tilapia, popularly called ‘koobi’ in the local Twi dialect, have expressed shock at revelations that a popular chemical used in the preservation of corpses, formalin, was applied to ‘koobi’ in the quest to preserve it. Most consumers of the delicacy who have been speaking to Rite news said they were horrified at the revelation.
‘I’m shocked at the romour that formalin is used to preserve fish. This is not the first time I’m hearing of this though I don’t know about its effects,’ one distraught consumer of koobi told Rite news. Another simply said that though he did not even know what formalin, he’s heard of its use in fish preservation. ‘I don’t even know what formalin is though I know it’s used in embalming dead bodies,’ he said.
These follow revelations made by the Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Professor Frimpong Boateng days ago who warned fish mongers to desist from the practice of using formalin to preserve salted fish (koobi) because it is injurious to human health.
Following this, the Food Research Institute FRI has expressed its commitment to conducting further researches to ascertain how widespread the issue of ‘poisoned’ tilapia is on the Ghanaian market. Research Scientist at the Food Research Institute, Madam Nina Bernice Ackah who revealed this in an interview with Rite news noted that the institute has the intention of going to various markets to take samples from traders in ‘koobi’ in order to verify the authenticity of the claims that formalin, a substance used in the preservation of corpses was used in preserving fish by some unscrupulous persons, as well as determine how widespread the practice is.
‘The intention of going to various markets is to take samples from traders in salted tilapia, also known as ‘koobi’ in order to verify the authenticity of the claims as well as to determine how widespread it is in the various markets. Based on whatever findings are derived from the test, the institute will then educate the public including the mongers on the effects of taking in this chemical and also make sure that the mongers of the products also desist from the use of formalin as well as educate them on how to treat ‘poisoned’ fish when bought from the markets,’ madam Ackah noted.
Responding to the revelations made by the minister, Madam Nina Bernice Ackah who explained that one of the key functions of formalin is that it is used in the preservation of various items from going bad however cautioned that the chemical nevertheless has so many side effects which is not meant for human, adding that consumers stand the risk of contracting cancer.
‘Formalin is 40% water and it works is to preserve items from going bad by hardening it from its normal state. The chemical has so many effects as well as the danger of cancer contraction. Effects of taking formalin include asthma, vomiting and dizziness and in the case of fish, it is mostly known by its stinking smell and physically too, it looks too hard from its normal nature. So formalin is something that human beings should prevent.
In order to avoid mistakenly eating contaminated formalin through salted fish since many consumers are unaware of what to look out for to determine if a fish is ‘poisoned’ by formalin or not, madam Ackah, said it is best to take one’s own precautionary measures on any ‘koobi’ bought from the market before eating.
‘Since one cannot differentiate ‘formalin fish’ from the ‘non-formalin fish,’ it is best to put the salted fish in water for long for any formalin that may have been used in its preservation to dissolve from it before cooking. For those preserving the fish through this process, they should also desist from doing so because it is a criminal act,’ Madam Ackah cautioned.