Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regularity Authority (BAFRA) has alerted people to avoid consuming street food sold at the Kuenselphodrang after random food samples from the hawkers were found contaminated.

Royal Centre for Disease Control (RCDC) on October 10 confirmed that street foods contained ‘aerobic plate count’ (APC), a microorganism harmful to human health.

Samples were collected on October 6 after BAFRA officials seized street foods like rice porridge, vegetable sausage, chilli chop, and doma.

BAFRA’s officer-in-charge for Thimphu, Kaling Dorji, said the presence of ACP microorganism indicates poor sanitation and hygiene while preparing the food items.

“Such foods should not be consumed. Although they might not have an immediate reaction, it would gradually hamper the health,” he said.

Kaling Dorji said BAFRA office received information that many street hawkers were selling street foods, mainly rice porridge. On inspection, they found it was true. BAFRA officials then started monitoring from 3AM. Until then, since the wang began on August 2 they usually monitored from 7AM till 5PM.

“Yet, there are few hawkers who still come to sell. even at the people’s camp. We seize and dispose of the items as per the guidlines.”

Kaling Dorji said BAFRA is vigilant of the street hawkers and inspects the wang kitchen every day.

Initially, the hawkers were warned not to sell and 13 hawkers were fined Nu 500 for selling inconsumable food.

“After August 14, we started seizing and disposing them off. However, there has been no issue with the food from the kitchen,” he said. “There were no reports of people getting sick after consuming their food.”

Officials seized 158 bottles of mineral water, 215 doma packets, more than 100 pieces of chilli chops, 60 boiled eggs and 80 packets of vegetable sausages, among many others.

Kaling Dorji said that the street foods would not be clean and safe given the condition and surroundings at Kuenselphodrang. “People should call BAFRA on 155 if they see hawkers selling rice porridge there. Food safety is a collective responsibility.”

Kaling Dorji said there was a similar report of rice porridge contamination before the oral transmission began at Kuenselphodrang.

“Now that winter is approaching, there will be more street hawkers. People should be careful with what they consume. We’re monitoring strictly for public safety,” he said.

Yangchen C Rinzin