A day after the Meghalaya government banned sale of fishes brought in from outside the state after sample test of river water fishes shipments showed presence of formalin, health authorities on Friday flagged the issue of fungal and bacterial contamination of frozen fish. About 80 per cent of fish samples collected last month from across Meghalaya have tested positive for formalin, a colourless solution of formaldehyde in water, used chiefly as a preservative for biological specimens.

“The samples have also tested positive for serious fungal and bacterial contamination,” a senior health official told PTI, requesting anonymity. The official said that 30 of the 42 samples collected in the first phase have tested positive for formalin, adding that more samples are being collected from as many markets as possible. According to FSSAI officials, ingestion of foods with mould contamination can cause memory loss, headache, joint pain and persistent cough.

Ingestion of as little as 30 ml of a 37 per cent solution of formalin can be fatal for human consumption and continuous intake can cause major gastrointestinal diseases, the officials said. Import of fishes had also been banned in the northeastern state 2018 after samples showed presence of formalin. Currently, Meghalaya imports over 21,000 MT of fishes mostly from Andhra Pradesh, West Bengal and Assam and consumes over 33,000 MT annually.