Food prod­ucts la­beled in lan­guages other than Dzongkha and English still in mar­ket

Business Bhutan - - Nation - Dechen Dolkar from Thim­phu (Ad­di­tional re­port­ing by Jigme Wangchen)

The mar­ket is flooded with food prod­ucts that are la­beled in lan­guages like Man­darin and Thai among oth­ers de­spite the Food Act of Bhutan 2005 stat­ing that prepack­aged food in­tended for sale in the coun­try must be la­belled ei­ther in English or Dzongkha.

The Bhutan Agri­cul­ture and Food Reg­u­la­tory Au­thor­ity (BAFRA), Min­istry of Agri­cul­ture and Forests had also no­ti­fied food busi­ness op­er­a­tors that all prepack­aged food in­tended for sale in the coun­try must be la­belled ei­ther in English or Dzongkha.

BAFRA is­sued an no­ti­fi­ca­tion in June 2017 stat­ing that prepack­aged food la­bels must have the min­i­mum la­bel­ing re­quire­ments as per the Bhutan stan­dard for la­belling of prepack­aged food in­clud­ing name of the food, list of in­gre­di­ents, net con­tent, name and ad­dress of man­u­fac­turer, coun­try of ori­gin, lot iden­ti­fi­ca­tion or batch num­ber, man­u­fac­tur­ing date and ex­piry date.

The la­bel­ing re­quire­ments were sup­posed to be im­ple­mented strictly na­tion­wide with ef­fect from Jan­uary 1, 2018.

The no­ti­fi­ca­tion states this aimed to pro­vide in­formed choices to the con­sumers while pur­chas­ing the food so that con­sumers are not mis­led and also in the in­ter­est of food safety.

Se­nior Reg­u­la­tory and Quar­an­tine Of­fi­cer of BAFRA, Ku­bir Nath Khat­tarai said that the re­quire­ment to la­bel all im­ported foods was en­forced since Jan­uary 2018.

“If you find any im­ported food prod­ucts still un­la­beled in the mar­kets, those could be the one im­ported be­fore the en­force­ment of the rule,” Ku­bir Nath Khat­tarai said, adding that this is be­cause they al­lowed the shop­keep­ers to dis­pose the un­la­beled foods that were im­ported be­fore the rule came into ef­fect.

He added that BAFRA mon­i­tors on two lev­els; firstly, they do in­spec­tion within the coun­try go­ing shop to shop en­sur­ing that all food prod­ucts are sold as per reg­u­la­tions and they mon­i­tor at the en­try points, through which ma­jor­ity of the foods en­ter the Bhutanese mar­ket.

He said that at en­try points, if those food prod­ucts come un­la­beled, they make them la­bel in ei­ther English or Dzongkha be­fore it is al­lowed to en­ter the mar­ket.

“When we en­counter un­la­belled food, we seize and dis­pose them,” he said, adding that they do cre­ate aware­ness among the peo­ple.

BAFRA usu­ally does not seize lo­cal prod­ucts. If they en­counter un­la­belled lo­cal prod­ucts, they ad­vise and cre­ate aware­ness on the need to have cor­rect la­bel­ing, he added.

Sim­i­larly, Of­fice of Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion (OCP) un­der the Min­istry of Eco­nomic Af­fairs had also is­sued a no­ti­fi­ca­tion through Bhutan Broad­cast­ing Ser­vice in­form­ing all man­u­fac­tur­ers, traders, re­tail­ers and other busi­ness es­tab­lish­ments to af­fix cor­rect prod­uct la­belling on ev­ery prod­uct that are sold in the mar­ket.

OCP stated that this re­quire­ment is as per the Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion Act and Reg­u­la­tions and in­di­cated that non-com­pli­ance will be dealt as per the pro­vi­sion of the Act and Reg­u­la­tions, which is im­pos­ing of fines and penal­ties and can­cel­la­tion of busi­ness li­cense.

Ad­di­tion­ally, the OCP no­ti­fi­ca­tion was is­sued sub­se­quent to reg­u­lar ad­vo­cacy pro­grams car­ried out by the of­fice sen­si­tiz­ing all busi­ness es­tab­lish­ments on the le­gal re­quire­ments to af­fix prod­uct la­belling to en­sure their com­pli­ance and also to in­di­cate that the of­fice will be vig­or­ously car­ry­ing mar­ket in­spec­tions and non-ad­her­ence to this re­quire­ment shall be dealt with se­ri­ously.

A shop­keeper from Eight Eleven gro­cery store in Thim­phu said that they do not im­port food items la­beled in lan­guages other than English and Dzongkha any­more. “Now, it has been more than a year that we have stopped sell­ing those food prod­ucts,” she said.

She also said that they used to im­port food prod­ucts which are la­beled in Chi­nese and other lan­guages from Bangkok ear­lier. “But now, these prod­ucts are all la­beled in English as well,” she said. “Author­i­ties con­cerned con­duct reg­u­lar in­spec­tions.”

An­other shop­keeper said that she used to sell prod­ucts which were not la­beled in English and Dzongkha ear­lier but they re­ceived in­for­ma­tion to stop do­ing so. Ad­di­tion­ally, she also said that the food prod­ucts which were not la­beled in English ear­lier are all la­beled now.

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