Salted tilapia, aka ‘Koobi’, sellers have called on Ghanaians to disregard reports circulating in the media that ‘Koobi’ is poisonous.
Reacting to a statement attributed to the Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, Prof. Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, that some traders had resorted to preserving the ‘Koobi’ with formalin, a cancer-causing agent, the traders dismissed the claim, saying that they were shocked to hear the report on various media platforms.
When the Daily Graphic visited the Adabraka and the Makola markets, the major sources of distribution of ‘Koobi’ to various parts of the country, the market women denied using any substance, apart from salt, to preserve the fish
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The Queenmother of the Salted Fish Sellers Association at Adabraka, Mrs Rejoice Abla Gbormita, told the Daily Graphic that she was yet to identify any of her colleague traders who engaged in the act.
“I want to assure our customers and Ghanaians that we distribute a lot of ‘koobi’ to various parts of the country and we cannot do anything untoward to harm any individual,” she said.
She indicated that the market women were ready to partner the government to bring to book all those who preserved their fish with formalin.
How ‘Koobi’ is preserved
Explaining how ‘Koobi’ is preserved, a trader at the Adabraka Market, Mrs Margaret Dorvie, said after the tilapia are caught, they are put in special containers and stones put on them and left in the sun for three or four days.
When they are brought to Accra from Akosombo, Yeji, the Afram Plains, Bamboi and Kpando, where the processing starts, the market women add salt to them to preserve the fish.
Mrs Alberta Dogbe also demonstrated to the Daily Graphic how to detect good salted fish on the market, noting that the commonest way was to open the gills to see if there were lumps of salt in there.
She added that the body of the fish would usually be rough, with the eyes not clearly seen.
At the Makola Market, a trader told the Daily Graphic that since the story broke, many people had refused to purchase ‘Koobi’.
“For the past three days since the story broke, our sales have been affected. Our ministers and leaders must be cautious about putting out such information,” she said.
Another trader also told the Daily Graphic that if the authorities had any concerns, they should rather deal with the fishmongers, not the sellers.
According to the Head of the Post-Harvest Unit at the Fisheries Commission, the commission detected the use of formalin by fishmongers to preserve their fish three years ago.
He, however, stressed that it had put extensive measures in place to bring the perpetrators to book, as well as curb the practice.
“We carried out a survey last three years in all the fishing communities and it was detected that some people used formalin to preserve fish in the Western Region.
“That informed us to conduct a survey every year in fishing communities to know the right processes the fishing industry use,” he said.
Mr Manu stated that it was the responsibility of the government to carry out sensitisation and training programmes for fishmongers, adding that they had been provided with the requisite tools to carry out their activities in a hygienic manner.
He assured the public that some perpetrators had been arrested and brought to book for engaging in the act to serve as a deterrent to others.
The Head of the Food Industrial Support Services Department at the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), Mr Kofi Essel, said some officers had been dispatched to the field to sample some of the salted fish, so they could test to see whether formalin had been used for preservation and conservation.
Even though the authority was yet to receive formal complaints, he said it was concerned about the story and would get to the root of it, adding that the official report on the investigations would be shared with the public as soon as they were done with.