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Deadly toxin found in frozen mackerel in central Vietnam

Saturday, June 11, 2016, 10:28 GMT+7

Samples of frozen mackerel taken from a seafood trade facility in the north-central province of Quang Tri have been found containing toxic substance, health officials said Friday.

Inspectors under the provincial health department collected six samples of frozen fish at the establishment run by L.T.T. in Cua Tung Town, Vinh Linh District, including one sample each of tuna, sardine and saurel, and three samples of mackerels.

Two of out three samples of stored at the establishment contain phenol, a highly toxic substance prohibited from using in food, Tran Van Thanh, director of the provincial health department, said on Friday, citing the inspection report.

The phenol content in the said samples stood at 0.037 mg/kg, according to the report.

The two samples tested positive to phenol were bought after mass fish deaths occurred in several central Vietnamese provinces in early April, according to the health inspectors.

Thanh said the inspection report has been submitted to the province’s administration, and similar checks will be done at other frozen seafood facilities in the locale. The tainted mackerels will be destroyed, he added.

Phenol is highly toxic to human and is completely banned in food processing, even packaging goods, Ho Si Bien, head of the provincial food safety department, told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.

While the amount of phenol found in the mackerel samples is too small to cause poisoning, excessive absorption in a longer term may lead to fatality, he pressed.

According to the United States Environment Protection Agency (EPA), phenol is highly irritating to the skin, eyes, and mucous membranes in humans after acute (short-term) inhalation or dermal exposures. 

Phenol is considered to be quite toxic to humans via oral exposure, with anorexia, progressive weight loss, diarrhea, vertigo, salivation, a dark coloration of the urine, and blood and liver effects reported in chronically exposed humans, EPA said. 

Animal studies have reported reduced fetal body weights, growth retardation, and abnormal development in the offspring of animals exposed to phenol by the oral route, the agency added.

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