Pla ra or fermented fish is now a quality-controlled food product after the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives has set quality standard in an effort to promote the traditional Esan food product.
A ministerial regulation which was published in the Royal Gazette on April 17 states that pla ra fermented fish must be made from fish which is not tainted with poisonous substance or chemicals which are harmful to health.
Pla ra is usually added to give flavor or taste to traditional Esan food such as Som Tam or green papaya salad.
The directive also states the fish meat must be soft and its skin intact; the smell must be good and product must not emit foul smell and the content of salt must not less than 18 percent of the weight of the fish.
Also, the pla ra must be free from parasites, worms, insects or other alien matters which are not part of the fish. No artificial coloring or preservatives are allowed.
The container must be clean and resistant to corrosion and the label must give details of the ingredients, the production and expiry dates as well as information about how to keep them for long use.
The directive, however, does not apply to pla ra which was already processed.
The ministerial announcement recieves mixed reactions from pla ra producers in the Northeast. Some of them agreed with the standard control measure, while others believed that the standardization of pla ra production could adversely impact producers.
They said the announcement goes to much into details which would be difficult for producers to make pla ra that meet the standards.