Economic crimes police on Wednesday arrested a woman and seized 3 tons of low-quality fishballs, claiming she had illegally imported the potentially dangerous meat.
Kandal province resident Chan Thea, 37, was stopped in Phnom Penh while en route to Battambang—where police believe she was planning to offload her goods.
“These fish meatballs were illegally imported and have no proper inspection papers or permission from the Agriculture Ministry,” said Brigadier General Long Sreng, the deputy chief of the Interior Ministry’s anti-economic crimes police.
Brig. Gen. Sreng said police received a tipoff from local police when Ms. Thea’s car crossed the border checkpoint, and followed her to Phnom Penh, where she stopped her car intending to transfer the haul to another vehicle.
“It’s a kind of food product but they have transported it without proper preparation or standards, so it is unacceptable,” he said. “They have to allow the experts to inspect [meat] because we don’t know what was put inside and it could affect people’s health.”
Ms. Thea was sent to court and the fishballs are to be destroyed.
Sar Thet, Battambang provincial police chief, said police have been trying to rein in imports of low-quality meats from Thailand and Vietnam.
“We regularly investigate all food products that use chemical substances to make them soft—like rice noodles and preserved fish—because when we eat it, it affects our health a lot,” he said.
Noodle makers in Vietnam have been shut down in recent years over the discovery of banned chemicals, while researchers have found boric acid in fishballs in other Southeast Asian nations.
Yang Saing Koma, director of agricultural NGO Cedac, said that despite their illegality, such chemicals remained popular.
“So expert establishments have to study and keep checking samples at the market, and educate people on how much they can use or can’t use,” he said.