Import and sale of all forms of seaweeds banned
The Bhutan Agriculture & Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) under the Ministry of Agriculture & Forests had banned the import and sale of forms of seaweeds with immediate effect.
As per the press release from the Ministry of Agriculture and Forests the ban has been initiated to ensure food safety, since seaweeds products were detected with high level of inorganic arsenic and cadmium above the maxi- mum residue limits (MRL) permitted in food. These heavy metals have been identified as hazardous for public health. Therefore, all food establishments and individuals importing food products are notified to stop import and sale of seaweeds and extend their full cooperation and support in implementing this ban.
The regulatory and quarantine inspectors of BAFRA in all the twenty dzongkhags will strictly monitor the implementation of this notification. The seaweed products which are already in the market shall be seized and destroyed in the presence of BAFRA officials or the importer may also re-export the seaweed products, under intimation with BAFRA.
Arsenic is a metalloid - a natural element that is not actually a metal but which has some of the properties of a metal. It is a natural component of the Earth’s crust, generally found in trace quantities in all rock, soil, water and air. However, concentrations may be higher in certain areas due to either natural conditions or human activities.
Arsenic can exist in many different chemical forms in combination with other elements. Some forms are inorganic, which do not contain carbon, and others are organic, which always contain carbon.
Long-term exposure to arsenic in drinking water can cause cancer in the skin, lungs, bladder and kidney. It can also cause other skin changes such as thickening and pigmentation. The likelihood of effects is related to the level of exposure to arsenic and in areas where drinking water is heavily contaminated, these effects can be seen in many individuals in the population.
BAFRA has temporarily banned import of chillies in the country in June this year as three varieties of imported chillies was found containing pesticide. The laboratory report revealed a presence of pesticides which are moderately toxic and its use is not permitted in the country.