Many fish from Vietnam and China contain formaldehyde, which has been known to cause cancer, according to tests. The study showed 25 percent of tested fish in supermarkets contained the carcinogen, and all of it came from Asia.
The amount of the carcinogen found in the fish is unnatural, according to the article in Food Safety News. Researchers from a North Carolina chemical engineering firm and North Carolina State University performed the tests which showed the results and verified them.
All of the fish examined in the tests was purchased in the Raleigh, North Carolina, area. About one in five of the fish contained formaldehyde, which is a carcinogen used as an embalming agent or medical disinfectant. None of the fish with the formaldehyde was from the United States or any non-Asian country.
No fish was examined from any other area than Raleigh, North Carolina.
In the United States, it is illegal for formaldehyde to be in food in more than trace amounts.
Chemical Engineer A. James Attar who conducted the tests, along with his colleagues, said the United States Food and Drug Administration does not test for formaldehyde. He added that the agency only tests four per cent of imported fish for any contaminants.
“The look on my face when we found this – it was a complete shocker,” commented Jason Morton, a colleague of Attar at North Carolina-based Appealing Products, Incorporated.
The FDA commented that it seeks “to ensure that both domestic and imported seafood is safe and that we are protecting consumers from products that can cause illness.” the agency commented to Food Safety News. “The, FDA oversees a comprehensive food safety program designed to ensure the safety of all seafood sold in the United States."
The agency also urged anyone who believes a certain food violates food safety laws to contact it.
The United States imports about 91 per cent of its seafood, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. China is responsible for 89 percent of aquaculture production worldwide.
The team attempted to prove the accuracy of their test by buying domestic and imported fish from supermarkets around Raleigh in an attempt to purposefully contaminate them with formaldehyde, according to savingseafood.org. They wanted to then verify their test worked.
The researchers found they did not need to do that, because 25 per cent of the fish was already contaminated, according to stopfoodborneillness.org.
Attar reported that not all fish from Asia were contaminated. Many were, however.
Morton would not say anyone in Asia was deliberately adding the carcinogen. He added the amount in the fish was unusually high. Morton and Attar did report, however, that in Bangladesh formaldehyde is sometimes used to preserve fish, if refrigerators or ice is not available.