The ‘CIFTest’ — developed by ICAR - Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (ICAR-CIFT), Cochin — is hogging the limelight as the food safety officers in Kerala as part of Operation Sagar Rani seized more than 28,000 kg of chemical-contaminated fish coming into the state in recent days using CIFTest kit. Ever since the monsoon trawling ban came into effect, the Kerala State Health & Safety Department, under ‘Operation Sagar Rani’, has been using the CIFTest to successfully intercept adulterated fish being brought into the state thus saving millions of consumers. Of late, there had been several reports that fresh fish is being sold after adulterating with chemicals like formaldehyde and ammonia. While there are many processes that can be done in the laboratories, all of them take time to detect the adulterants. Hence, ICAR-CIFT took the challenge to develop a quick and simple kit that consumers can use.
The CIFT team, which was spearheaded by scientists S.J. Laly and E.R. Priya under guidance of Dr. C.N. Ravishankar, Dr. K. Ashok Kumar, Dr. A.A. Zynudheen and Dr. Satyen Kumar Panda developed a rapid detection kit ‘CIFTest Kit’which consists of a paper strip and a reagent that helps the user detect if the fish has been smeared by formaldehyde or ammonia. If formaldehyde is detected, the white paper strip will change to blue in 30 seconds and depending on the content of ammonia, it will change to green or blue in two minutes. Currently, each test would cost Rs. 2 and the kit containing 25 strips and reagent would cost Rs.50.
Shri. Radha Mohan Singh, Union Minister of Agriculture and Farmers Welfare, released the Rapid Detection Kits (CIFTest) at national level to detect adulteration of Formaldehyde and Ammonia in fresh fish. Smt. J. Mercykutty Amma,Minister of Fisheries, Kerala distributed the kit to Matsyafed and Food Safety officials, and called for periodic inspections at fish markets across the State and promised stern action against traders using hazardous chemicals.
The technology assumes significance in the wake of large-scale seizure of adulterated fish from the state borders. The consumers have also been looking for mechanisms to detect adulterated fish. CIFT have transferred the CIFTest technology to HIMEDIA Laboratories Pvt. Limited, Mumbai to produce the strip commercially. Shortly, the strips will be available in the market at an affordable price for use byenforcement agencies, food safety inspectors, traders, processors and consumers.
Newspaper reports suggest that consumers have become increasingly aware of the perils of fish adulteration ever since news about interception of adulterated fish came up. They are now able to seek the source and quality of fish they are purchasing and make a healthy purchase decision.The Kerala Government is planning new regulations which mandates stringent action and penalty against people behind use of fish adulterants. Such a policy change was possible only because of technology backup provided by ICAR-CIFT in the form of this appropriate technology called ‘CIFTest’.