Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) sent samples from 81 tonnes of Shad fish for retest in the face of objections raised by the importers of the consignments after the laboratory tests identified heavy metal in the fish.
On February 15, Fish Inspection and Quality Control (FIQC) Chittagong office submitted the tests which found excessive amounts of Lead and Cadmium in the samples of two consignments of Nihao Food Company Limited and another consignment of Niyamat Shah Enterprise.
Nihao Food Company imported 54 tonnes of Shad fish in January this year, which would cost approximately Tk 44,91,990 while Niyamat Shah Enterprise imported 27 tonnes of Shad fish in November last year which would cost approximately Tk 22,45,995.
The BFSA said that since the importers have challenged the results, they will have to do a retest.
Mahbub Kabir, a member of the BFSA, said they had been identifying the countries where the fish containing the metals were coming from.
“We will monitor this for few more days and will eventually put bar on importing fish from those countries,” he added.
Nihao Food Company Limited proprietor Soumendu Basu, also the General Secretary of Bangladesh Fish Importers Association, told The Daily Star that they had a health certificate as well as a laboratory test report on the consignment from the exporter which stated that there was no presence of heavy metal.
“We imported the fish from Uruguay and submitted all necessary documents including the reports to customs authority. But FIQC here found excessive lead in our fish, which is absurd,' said Soumendu.
The batches of fish that are suspected of containing the metals are currently in the importers' respective warehouses. Samples from the consignments have been sent for retesting when officials of both the companies challenged the findings of the reports and demanded for a retest of the samples.
This led Chittagong Custom House authority to send the samples to Atomic Energy Centre and Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research in Dhaka for the retest at the end of last month.
Md Bayezid Hossain, assistant commissioner of Chittagong Custom House, said they sent the samples to Dhaka for further testing after the importers raised their objection regarding the last test results.
“They demanded for a retest and we had no objection. We released the consignments of the importers after keeping some samples according to the direction of BFSA. Whatever the department will direct us to do, we would go with that,” he said.
The custom authorities have also said that the results of the tests will not be held against the importers, and there will be no fine for them.
Reports of the retests can be found within this week, said sources in the custom house.
If the retests show the same findings, it will be the BFSA's responsibility to destroy the batches of Shad fish that are suspected of containing the metal.
The tests cost around Tk 20,000 and the importers have to pay for them.
The FIQC test report found presence of 0.64 milligrams and 0.55 milligrams of lead respectively in the two consignments containing 54 tonnes of fish imported by Nihao Food while the safe consumption level of lead is 0.30 milligrams.
The report also found presence of 0.30 milligrams of cadmium in a consignment of 27 tonnes of fish imported by Niyamat Shah Enterprise against the safe consumption level of 0.25 milligram.
BFSA announced heavy metal testing for imported fish mandatory from January 1st this year leading to an immediate strike by fish importers in taking delivery of the consignment till January 15.