Professor Frimpong Boateng, the Minister for Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation has warned fish mongers to stop using formalin to preserve salted fish (koobi) because it is injurious to human health.
He said formalin, a chemical used for preserving corpse, can cause cancer and many life threatening diseases when consumed in any food including ‘koobi’.
The renowned heart surgeon sounded the caution last Friday, in an interview with The Ghanaian Times during his maiden visit to the Food Research Institute of the Centre for Scientific and Industrial Research.
He said koobi was used for sumptuous meals in the past when fish mongers used the appropriate preservation substance but said its consumption had gone down because of the use of a dangerous chemical.
“We want the few people who are destroying the industry to stop. Do not preserve koobi with formalin, it is dangerous. Formalin can cause cancer,” he cautioned.
Prof. Boateng said even flies do not get attracted by koobi because the use of formalin in preserving it, adding that “when koobi was koobi, if you open the gills you could still see salt there. Koobi was a little softer and when you put it somewhere, flies would be attracted to it, these days you put the koobi there and even the flies don’t go there”.
Because of the hazards of formalin, he said mortuary attendants used protective work gear to prevent contact with the skin.
Prof. Boateng advised Ghanaians to be cautious of the food they eat as they risk getting infected by dangerous chemicals used for preserving the food.
The environment, science technology and innovation minister said he would relish eating koobi again if fish mongers used salt to preserve the fish.
Formalin has been used as a tissue preservative in operating rooms and pathology laboratories for over one hundred years.
It is a solution of about four per cent formaldehyde and water (known as 10 per cent NBF) and is ubiquitous in clinical laboratories, pathology laboratories, and in operating rooms. It is an inexpensive reagent and effective at what it does.
According to the U.S. Department of Labour’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (“OSHA”), formalin is highly irritating to the upper respiratory tract, eyes, and skin, and is a known carcinogen.
In humans, formaldehyde exposure has been associated with cancers of the lung, nasopharynx and oropharynx, and nasal passages.