Keralites love seafood, and it is a staple food for most in the state, who cannot even imagine their food without at least a piece of fish on their plate. But was the fish you had all this time fresh?

Lethal chemicals like formalin, ammonia and sodium benzoate are added to the fish to make them look fresh for more days. Most Malayalees are ignorant about it and continue buying fish without knowing the level of chemicals on it. These chemicals can cause several diseases, including Parkinson's, genetic disorders and destruction of cells.

According to the latest method to 'keep the fish fresh' these chemicals are mixed with the ice so that the ice won't melt fast, and the fish will look fresh for more than three days.

However, there is a good news for people who want to check whether there is the presence of ammonia or other chemicals in the fish before buying it. A rapid detection kit is developed by the Kochi-headquartered Central Institute of Fisheries Technology (CIFT) for easy detection of adulterants in domestically marketed fish, which will deliver the result in just three minutes.

The two kits, one for ammonia and other for formaldehyde includes thin paper strips and a small solution. A person wanting to test the fish will have to remove the strip and scrape (rub) it on the fish. Then put one drop of solution on the paper strip and watch if the colour changes. If it turns dark blue, it means that the fish is contaminated. The meanings of changes in colour are indicated on the package so that a consumer can get the result on the spot.

Director of CIFT Dr C. N. Ravisankar said the kit could be made available for a fair price. Minister for Fisheries J Mercykutty Amma told that they would take action to popularise the bag which can be used by even the ordinary people. State Food Safety Commissioner M G Rajamanickam said that they will hold inspections in fish stalls and markets in the state and that stringent action will be taken if contamination is detected.

More than 160 loads of fish are imported on a daily basis to Kerala. Most fish are imported from the states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Goa, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh through the borders of Thiruvananthapuram, Poovar, Amaravila, Walayar and Kasaragod.