Researchers from the North Carolina State University (NCSU) and North Carolina-based chemical engineering firm Appealing Products Inc. revealed that a large number of imported fish from Vietnam and China contains alarming levels of formaldehyde. The findings were based on the results churned out by a formaldehyde test the two institutions developed for food safety tools manufacturer ChemSee.
Formaldehyde, an organic compound, is used widely as an embalming agent and is a known carcinogenic to humans. The use of formaldehyde in food preservation is illegal.
The researchers said that around 25% of all the fish that they purchased from supermarkets were found to have potentially dangerous levels of formaldehyde. Formaldehyde can cause skin irritation, and digestive and respiratory problems.
A. James Attar and his co-workers at Appealing Products verified that the contaminated fish were imported from Asian countries and were not found in the U.S. or other regions. Attar and his team of researchers announced their findings last Tuesday at North Carolina State University’s Centennial Campus.
Attar said that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration do not conduct inspections on imported fish for any formaldehyde contamination. Only 4% of the fish imports get tested for any contamination.
Jason Morton, one of Attar’s colleagues at Appealing Product’s Inc said, “The look on my face when we found this – it was a complete shocker.”
The U.S. FDA reported that about 15% of the foods Americans consume are imported. Only 1 to 2% of these imported foods are inspected.
Attar noted that not all fish were contaminated. “But many were,” he said.
The findings of the study were unexpected. Initially, NCSU and Attar’s team intended to purposely contaminate domestic and imported fish sourced from Raleigh supermarkets to verify the effectiveness of the new formaldehyde detector test. To the researchers’ surprise, the fish imports from Asia were already contaminated. In fact, one in four fish was contaminated with the dangerous substance.
News about the contaminated fish imports from Asia has also been published by several media outlets. News about formaldehyde-tainted cabbages has also surfaced recently.
“I think it’s ridiculous that perishable food is not inspected. It must be inspected if we’re going to protect the public.” Attar said.
The findings come on the heels of the FDA’s proposed regulations that will ensure that the quality of the country’s global food imports are up to par with US standards. As some of you may know, the FDA have been found wanting with the implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), which focused more on local food safety than improving the safety of imported foods.
Food safety regulations need to be observed strictly so that food poisoning incidences can be minimized.