Indiscriminate use of hazardous pesticides for the preservation of fish in dried form poses serious health risks to the dried fish lovers but the authorities concerned are yet to come up with any visible measure to curb the unlawful practice.
Physicians and nutritionists have warned that the use of chemicals, especially toxic DDT (dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane) powder on dried fish, can cause a serious harm to the public health.
DDT has been banned internationally after studies revealed that exposure to it causes breast, liver, testicular and pancreatic cancer, diarrhoea, stomach ache, and skin infection.
Apart from the health risk factor the use of pesticides for preserving dried fish has negative impact on the economy also. Due to the use of chemicals on dried fish, the country has lost its dried fish export market abroad.
According to data provided by the Department of Fisheries, the country has exported 2,297 metric tonnes of dried fish in 2016-17 fiscal, which was lower compared to the amount earned in the previous year.
Experts said most of the dried fish produced in the country contain heavy chemicals which cause cancer. Traders want the fish to retain moisture so that they weigh more, but moisture is a good environment for bacteria. Traders then use DDT to kill the bacteria.
During a visit to the capital’s Karwan Bazar, this correspondent found that in almost all the shops that sell dried fish shops have kept the product in unhygienic condition.
As the dried fishes were kept uncovered, various types of insects including mosquitoes and flies were flying on them besides being in constant contact of dust particles. Many dried fishes were found holed after being eaten insects.
However, these fish are being sold openly to the consumers.
Not only in Karwan Bazar, the scenario is similar in all other kitchen markets of the capital.
Among the dried fishes, loitta, suri fish, chanda, chepa, kanchki, mola, paysha, hilsa and shidol shutkis are more contaminated with pesticides.
Dr ABM Faruk, professor of Department of Pharmaceutical Technology of Dhaka University said that dried fishes contain plenty of vitamins and protein, which are very necessary for our body. People have been eating dried fish for long. However, due to excessive use of the toxic chemicals on these fish, people now have given up eating from fear.
“Even I liked to eat dried fish but do not eat them anymore. Pesticides mixed with dried fish, cause harm to human body, especially the liver and kidneys,” he added.
Monish Mandol, assistant director (Admin) of Department of fisheries told Bangladesh Post that to reduce the use of pesticides on fish, the DOF have launched different awareness raising programmes.
“We have conducted drives at different places selected by the DOF against them who use the toxic chemicals on the dried fishes that are harmful to the human body,” said Monish.
He said that businessmen do not dry fishes properly as they prefer to keep high moisture content to increase weights for extra profits.
He said if the dried fishes can be processed in healthy way, the country may earn a huge amount of foreign money by exporting this product after meeting local demand.
The government has planned to bring the fishermen and their affiliates under a training programme to introduce them with healthier procedures to preserve dried fishes, Monish concluded.