World class food testing lab to be set up in Goa: Suresh Prabhu

Union Commerce Minister Suresh Prabhu Monday said that a world-class laboratory to test food quality would be set up in Goa by the Centre’s Export Inspection Agency (EIA) and Quality Council of India (QCI).

Prabhu held a meeting on the issue with Goa Agriculture Minister Vijai Sardesai Monday afternoon.

“Last week it was pointed out to us by state Health Minister (Vishwajit Rane) that there are certain apprehensions in the mind of people about the quality of fish,” Prabhu told reporters at Porvorim.

“Anything that is edible must be of the best quality. Keeping that in mind, we have decided to set up a world class laboratory in Goa,” Prabhu added.

He said that EIA, whose certification is accepted in Europe, Japan and the USA, would help set up the testing facility in the coastal state.

He said a mobile testing van and an online mechanism would be commissioned to take care of specific complaints about edible items.

Sardesai said that the state government wanted to build a system to ensure all food items in Goa are of the best quality.

The use of formalin, a potential cancer-causing chemical, to preserve fish has been a controversial issue in Goa over the past few months with ruling parties and those in the opposition attacking each other over it.

Source: PTI

Artificially Prepared “Plastic Eggs” Sold in Goa, Says MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco, Govt Denies Claim

PANAJI:  The Congress today alleged that “plastic eggs” are being sold in Goa and demanded action from the government to check the practice, reports PTI.

Raising the issue in the Legislative Assembly, Congress MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco displayed three eggs, which he claimed are made up of “plastic”.

Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said these eggs would be tested in laboratories, reported PTI.

“I have brought three eggs to show them to you. These are plastic eggs which are being sold in Goa,” he said.

Also Read: Plastic Eggs or Genetically Modified Eggs: Are they Real?

Mr Lourenco said such artificial eggs are harmful to health of Goans and sought action against the people involved in selling them.

The MLA said the department of Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) has failed to act to check the sell of such eggs.

In his reply, Mr Parrikar said nobody can manufacture plastic eggs.

“I will get the eggs checked in laboratories. We will also send one of the eggs to the Centre (for testing). There cannot be a plastic egg,” Mr Parrikar said, and appealed to the opposition party not to indulge in any speculation over genuineness of the eggs, says the PTI report.

Also Read: Kolkata hit by mass production of artificial or ‘plastic eggs’

The Congress had last week stalled the House over purported presence of formalin in fish being imported to Goa from other states, says the PTI report.

While the Goa CM has denied the existence or sale of ‘plastic eggs’ in the State, the problem is rampant all over the country, reports. Last year, Kolkata was hit by a mass production and sale of artificial eggs, allegedly made of plastic, (Read Here) which led to the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) to order an investigation into it. The clampdown by the KMC resulted in a crackdown on unscruplous vendors and wholesalers in Kolkata, but it has now spread to other metros and slums are the worst hit.

In Mumbai, sources claim that out of every 12 eggs sold, about 2 eggs are spurious or artificial or fake.

What are Plastic Eggs?

Plastic or artificial or fake eggs first originated in China about 15 years ago. What started as a party joke, turned out to be a highly profitable business, with the prices of fresh eggs skyrocketing along with the demand, thus enticing unscrupulous manufactures to resort to the trick on a mass scale.

A plastic or artificial or fake egg cost only Rs 50-80 paisa to produce per egg, when produced in bulk, increasing profits for bulk egg dealers by 200 per cent.

Also Read: How do you distinguish between artificial or plastic and real eggs?

Plastic or artificially prepared or spurious eggs have become a major health hazard in India and according to sources, out of every dozen or 12 eggs sold in India at least one is fake.

One can manufacture the ‘plastic egg’ at home using basic chemicals and even for an apprentice, the cost works out to be Rs 1.10 to Rs 1.25 per egg on a small scale.

On a larger scale the cost is around 80 to 90 paisa, while if manufactured on a commercial scale or on a production line, the cost works out to be 40 to 50 paisa per fake egg.

Some unscrupulous elements have started manufacturing these plastic eggs, which are then mixed with the real eggs in connivance with some wholesalers

According to internet sources, here are how the Chinese fake eggs were made:

Prepare a mould, then mix the right amounts of resin, starch, coagulant and pigments to make egg white. Sodium alginate, extracted from brown algae, gives the egg white the wanted viscosity. Then add the fake egg yolk, a different mix of resin and pigments. Once the proper shape is achieved, an amalgamate of paraffin wax, gypsum powder and calcium carbonate makes for a credible shell.

Difference Between Real and Fake Eggs:

Real eggs have a faint smell, he said, which fake eggs lack. Tapping a fake egg makes a hollower sound than a real egg. Once cracked open, egg white and yolk would quickly mix.

Fake eggs first appeared in the mid-’90s and production spread all over China, the Chinese state news agency Xinhua reported back in 2005.

At the time, the production cost of a fake egg was half of its real equivalent. Today its only one-tenth of the cost of an original egg in China.

With the proper equipment and materials, one person could produce 1,500 fake eggs per day, another Xinhua report quoted a fake-egg producer’s website as saying.

Manohar Parrikar bans out-of-state fish imports for 15 days, evades queries on formalin controversy

Refusing to clarify whether the fish from neighbouring states contained formalin, Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar on Wednesday banned the entry of fish consignments into the state for 15 days, reports IANS.

Also Read: Rs 25 lakh ‘bribe’ paid by inter-state fish mafia to BJP-led Goa Govt to get a clean chit in formalin contamination controversy

According to news agency IANS, the decision comes a day before the upcoming monsoon session of the Goa Legislative Assembly, even as the Bharatiya Janata Party-led coalition government has faced criticism for trying to downplay the role of fish traders and their alleged use of formalin and a U-turn by the Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) officials, who first seized fish consignments for use of formalin and later claimed that the powerful disinfectant was within “permissible limits”.

Also Read: Formalin present, but Goa FDA ‘pressurized’ and ‘managed’ by a Minister and fish mafia to retract reports, manipulate tests

“If we stop the import of fish for 15 days, then this question will be resolved. From August 1, Goan trawlers will hit the seas to fish, there will be no need for transporting fish from far. Therefore from today, there will be a ban on the import of fish,” Parrikar said.

Also Read: Should we give FDA Padma Bhushan? Vijai Sardesai slams media & FDA, calls journos ‘prophets of doom’ who made FDA director a ‘heroine’

State FDA officials, after a raid on outstation fish consignments from Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra, had claimed that formalin was used to preserve fish.

But soon after the raid, Agriculture Minister Vijai Sardesai tweeted that the fish was fit for consumption, following which the FDA in a statement said that the chemical was “within permissible limits”.

Also Read: Fish mafia earns a ‘minimum profit’ of Rs 5-10 Cr a month or Rs 120 Cr annually, politicians, senior police officials, bureaucrats are either partners or get the best catch free?

Fish markets over the last few days have worn a desolate look, with consumers laying-off from purchasing fish in view of the ongoing controversy.

Parrikar on Wednesday said that the ban was announced “only as an abundant caution in the interest of the health of the citizens, to avoid controversies and confusion”.

Also Read: Formalin-in-Fish, Congress bigwigs silence is deafening

However, despite repeated queries, the Chief Minister refused to clarify whether the fish which was consumed over the last couple of months was laced with formalin.

“I am not going into tests, since I have banned the fish. There is no point in discussing (these) issues, which possibly no one has understood properly. So I will not comment on that,” he said.

Also Read: MLA Aleixo Reginaldo Lourenco slams Goa govt on formalin contamination issue

IANS reports: “The basic issue is, in order to ensure safe food and fish being a staple food, 15-day ban has been imposed. Meantime, FDA will make arrangements for a permanent checking facility on the front (state borders),” he added.

The Chief Minister also said that the state FDA did not have adequate mechanism to check fish consignments being brought into the state and the 15-day ban period would help fix the gap.

Also Read: 28,000 kg formalin-laced fish, 6000 kg of formalin-soaked shrimp seized in Kerala

“Let FDA set up proper facilities in the meantime to ensure that testing is done regularly and frequently. We do not have enough facilities. It (fish consignments) is coming from all sides, you require teams. That too early morning. Let the controversy die down. Let FDA set up proper facilities and they will check after that,” he said.

Fish is a staple food for locals in Goa and the state’s seafood is popular among tourists.

Source: IANS

Formalin-in-fish: Reginaldo wants daily surprise checks on fish, fruits, vegetables sold in Goa

Alleging that the government is compromising on the fish quality brought into the state from outside because of some fish agents, Congress MLA Reginaldo Lourenco on Saturday demanded that the government ensure zero use of formalin in fish and other food items such as fruit and vegetables sold in the state, reports The Goan.

Also Read: Fish mafia earns a ‘minimum profit’ of Rs 5-10 Cr a month or Rs 120 Cr annually, politicians, senior police officials, bureaucrats are either partners or get the best catch free?

Addressing the media, the three-time Curtorim MLA demanded that the authorities carry out regular/daily checks on the fish and other food items sold in all the markets across the state.

Also Read: Rs 25 lakh ‘bribe’ paid by inter-state fish mafia to BJP-led Goa Govt to get a clean chit in formalin contamination controversy

According to The Goan, while terming as a “cruel joke” the contention of FDA there can be permissible limit for dangerous formalin, Reginaldo wondered how can there be a permissible limit for formalin, a carcinogenic substance.

Also Read: Formalin present, but Goa FDA ‘pressurized’ and ‘managed’ by a Minister and fish mafia to retract reports, manipulate tests

Saying that he would raise the issue in the ensuing session of the Goa Legislative Assembly, the Congress MLA said the 61-day fishing ban in Goa has become irrelevant as there is no dearth of it because fish doused with lethal formalin is imported into Goa from Karnataka, Odisha, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, etc.

Also Read: Should we give FDA Padma Bhushan? Vijai Sardesai slams media & FDA, calls journos ‘prophets of doom’ who made FDA director a ‘heroine’

“There is absolutely no check on the quality of fish that is being sold because the government of Manohar Parrikar is hand-in-glove with the perpetrators of the crime,” he alleged.

Also Read: Goa CM’s office monitoring use of formalin in fish

He said Goemkars are baffled that their government is not banning fish preserved with formalin as states such as Kerala, Nagaland, Manipur, Assam, etc have done, says a report in The Goan.

Also Read: 28,000 kg formalin-laced fish, 6000 kg of formalin-soaked shrimp seized in Kerala

“The health of Goemkars is being slowly consigned to the death bed by Goa’s BJP-led government. For funding BJP at the center in the 2019 general election, the government’s only concern is to collect money from the fish mafia which thrives using formalin on fish,” he added.

“What Goemkars demand now is a thorough probe into the formalin episode. It is the bounded duty of the government to check each and every vehicle bringing fish into the wholesale fish market,” he demanded.

Source: The Goan

Soldier Dies In Kolkata Of Suspected Nipah Virus Infection

A soldier died on Monday in Kolkata of suspected Nipah virus, which has caused 13 deaths in Kerala.

The soldier, Seenu Prasad, was from Kerala and was posted at Fort William. He was admitted to hospital on 20 May, seven days after his return from a month’s holiday in Kerala.

He died on Sunday and was cremated the next day.

His samples have been sent to the National Institute of virology in Pune, which is the only agency in the country to certify whether it was a case of Nipah virus.

The deadly virus, which infects both humans and animals, spreads through contact. The infection in India is believed to have started in Kozhikode in Kerala, where dead bats were found in an unused well inside a home. Four members of the family that stayed there have died, including a man and his two sons.

The symptoms of the infection include fever, headache, drowsiness, breathing trouble, disorientation and delusions. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), these symptoms can progress to coma within 24-48 hours.

Bats are believed to be the main carriers of the virus, for which there is no vaccine yet.

Death toll rises to 12 in Nipah virus outbreak

New Delhi: The Nipah Virus infection (NiV) claimed one more life in Kerala on Thursday, according to the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). With this, the death toll has risen to 12.

“The total number of confirmed cases is 14 and the number of suspected cases is 20. Till today 12 persons (nine from Kozhikode and three from Malappuram) have died of NiV,” said Sunil Gupta, additional director, microbiology, NCDC. After reviewing the cases of all the patients who have lost their lives, the central high-level team of NCDC on Thursday in an official statement said that the Nipah virus disease is not a major outbreak and is only a local occurrence.

“The central team held meetings with the district collectors and the medical and paramedical staff of the hospitals today to review the condition of the admitted patients and to consider further course of action to be taken to prevent the disease from spreading,” said a statement issued by Union health ministry.

“The efforts taken so far for containment of the disease have been fruitful as the disease has not spread to new areas. The contact tracing strategy adopted has also been successful. It has been found that all the reported cases including the suspected cases had direct or indirect contact with the first casualty/his family prior to contacting the disease,” it said.

The health ministry has issued prevention guidelines advising people to avoid contact with infected bats and pigs, avoid consuming raw foods, eat only well-cooked food, maintaining personal hygiene and hand washing practice, wearing N95 mask and reporting to the doctor in case of any symptoms.

Nipah-hit Kerala fights fake message scourge too

As the Kerala government machinery went on an overdrive to tackle the Nipah outbreak, vitriolic fake messages seeking ‘immediate sanitization’ of borders to ‘prevent entry of people from Kerala’ were doing the rounds on social media.

DGP Loknath Behera issued a circular on Tuesday saying that the creation of fake or false messages and spreading them to cause panic or public disorder are criminal acts. ‘Those who forward such messages in the Social Media will also face investigation and prosecution,’ the circular said.

A malicious and ill-informed message circulating on WhatsApp said people ‘should not visit Kerala.’ To create more alarm and acrimony, it said ‘immediate quarantine is required on the Goa borders to prevent people from Kerala entering by road, rail, train, or ship.’ The messages urges the ‘disaster management authorities to be on alert.’ Not to stop there and attempting a prediction, it says the ‘virus may spread to Goa next week.’

The message asks readers to spread it to ‘everyone’ and urges people not to ‘visit Kerala or come in contact with anyone returning from Kerala, especially Kozhikode.’

Quite a few messages had been circulating on social media after a Nipah virus outbreak was reported in north Kerala’s Kozhikode district last week. The Kerala health department had issued an advisory and a note of caution urging people to stay calm and not fall prey to false information circulating on social media.

The department said Nipah virus spread through human fluid ingestion alone and not through air, water or mosquitoes. It said all mechanisms were in place to contain its spread. A central team had also visited Kerala to take stock of the situation.

People had been asked to be wary of using fruits bitten by fruit bats, the natural hosts of the Nipah virus.

Nipah virus spread by fruit bats claim victims in Kerala, infected mangoes found in victims house

In the wake of the Nipah virus (NiV) outbreak in Kerala, where it has claimed the lives of 10 victims and affected many more, people wonder if they should reconsider consuming fruits with reports pointing the occurrence of the disease to fruit bats – a kind of large bat that eats fruit. The NiV virus can be spread through direct contact with infected pigs, other infected animals or through contaminated fruits, such as half-eaten fruits left by fruit bats. The disease is also transmitted through direct contact with sick persons or NiV-infected people. According to experts, Nipah virus can also be spread through contaminated water – such as washing fruits with water which has been infected with a bat’s excreta.

Following the confirmation of the identification of the Nipah virus in blood samples, people are being cautioned that they do not consume any fruits that fall down from trees. The virus’ natural hosts are a variety of fruit bats found in parts of Southeast Asia and Africa. Fruit bats, also called ‘Flying Foxes’ – although they are nothing like foxes – are said to have a serious taste for all types of fruits,  ranging from bananas to mangoes, dates, avocados, wild dates and any type of pulpy fruit.

Reports attributing the Nipah virus outbreak to fruit bats (herbivorous bats which chiefly consume fruits) has come as a dampener for fruit vendors, especially those selling mangoes. According to a report in the BBC, fruit bats are considered to be the natural host of the virus.

Health officials in Kerala said they had found mangoes bitten by bats in a home where three people died of the suspected infection, reports the BBC. People in Kerala and even parts of Karnataka and Goa have begun avoiding mangoes since reports began tickling in that Mangoes could cause the spread of the Nipah virus.

George Thomas, Dean, Horticulture College, Thrissur, told The New Indian Express that bats do not attack jackfruit, but relish mangoes, rambutan and sapotta or chikoo, because these fruits have soft skins. Considering the fact that the disease is spread by fruit bats, it would be wise for people, particularly those living in areas inhabited by bats or wildlife animals, to remain alert and take precautionary measures such as adopting standard infection control practices, not consuming fruits that have fallen on to the ground.

And here’s a fact check about the deadly, little-known virus, including its transmission, symptoms, prevention.

The Nipah virus is a recently-recognised zoonotic paramyxovirus that causes severe illness and high fatality rates in people. Symptoms of Nipah virus are similar to that of influenza – fever, headache, muscle pain, vomiting, drowsiness, etc. NiV infection leads to acute respiratory trouble and fatal inflammation in the brain. Like most other viral infections, Nipah, too, has no specific treatment and can only be managed through intensive supportive care.

How does Nipah Virus Spread?

At least three people have died due to a deadly virus Nipah in northern Kerala. The outbreak was identified after three members of a family who were tested positive for the virus, including two youths in their 20s, died while undergoing treatment at the hospital. Their father, who is also infected, has been put under observation in the hospital. The entire state has been on high alert as eight others have also been hospitalized for showing similar infection-related symptoms. Basic symptoms of the Nipah virus are fever, nausea, vomiting, convulsions, choking, stomach pain, and fatigue. A person infected with the Nipah Virus can go in coma.

Nipah virus (NiV) infection is a newly emerging zoonosis, a disease which can be transmitted to humans from animals, that causes severe disease in both animals and humans. The natural hosts of the Nipah virus are fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family, Pteropus genus.

Kerala health minister KK Shylaja said a bat was found in the well of the house where the deaths occurred, and that the house has now been closed. A nursing assistant, Lini, who had treated these three patients, also died on Monday. However, it is yet to be established if she died of virus infection from bats or due to some other reasons.

Total 15 deaths have been reported due to the symptoms related to the virus in several districts of the state, reported India Today. A high-level team from the National Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is analyzing the overall situation in Kozhikode, which is the most affected. The authorities have said there’s no need to panic as the Nipah virus spreads only through direct contact with an infected person.

What is Nipah Virus (NiV)

According to the World Health Organisation, the virus was named after the Malaysian village, Kampung Sungai Nipah, where it was first identified during an outbreak of the disease in 1998. During that time, pigs were the intermediate hosts of the virus. However, in subsequent NiV outbreaks, there were no intermediate hosts. In Bangladesh in 2004, humans were infected with NiV as a result of consuming date palm sap that had been contaminated by infected fruit bats. Human-to-human transmission has also been documented in India. NiV also causes diseases in pigs and other animals. So far, there is no vaccine for either humans or animals. The primary treatment for human cases is intensive supportive care.

Causes of Nipah Virus

  • Fruit bats of the genus Pteropus have been identified as natural reservoirs of NiV.
  • Nipah virus has been isolated from the brain and spinal fluid of victims in Malaysia.
  • Infective virus has also been isolated from bat urine and partially-eaten fruit in Malaysia.

How Nipah Virus is transmitted

  • Infected bats shed virus in their excretion and secretion such as saliva, urine, semen and excreta but they are symptomless carriers.
  • The NiV is highly contagious among pigs, spread by coughing. Ninety per cent of the infected people in the 1998-1999 outbreaks were pig farmers or had contact with pigs.
  • WHO says emergence of bat-related viral infection communicable to humans and animals has been attributed to the loss of natural habitats of bats. As the flying fox habitat is destroyed by human activity the bats get stressed and hungry, their immune system gets weaker, their virus load goes up and a lot of virus spills out in their urine and saliva.

How to prevent Nipah virus

  • There is no effective treatment for Nipah virus disease, but ribavarin may alleviate the symptoms of nausea, vomiting, and convulsions.
  • Treatment is mostly focused on managing fever and the neurological symptoms.
  • Severely ill individuals need to be hospitalised and may require the use of a ventilator.
  • Prevent infected persons from coming in contact with others as human-to-human transmission of NiV has been reported in recent outbreaks.
  • Healthcare workers caring for patients with suspected or confirmed NiV should implement standard precautions.