But less items are being seized as a result of better awareness and cooperation by shopkeepers

BAFRA: The Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) seized goods worth Nu 70,000 from about 130 shops in Samdrupjongkhar and Dewathang for not complying the Food Act of Bhutan.

This was following a routine inspection from mid February to March 31. The majority of the seized items were groceries.

Most of the goods seized were expired items, with tampered pakages, especially canned foods, and damaged goods. Most of the seized goods were soft drinks packed in plastic bottles and cans, biscuits, sweets and instant noodles.

The team also seized eggs near the Samdrupjongkhar main gate that was illegally being imported from Daranga, an adjacent Indian border town.

An official, who wished not be named, said many customers do not check the expiry date of a product before purchase nor do the shopkeepers.

“But no shops were found to have kept expired goods intentionally inside the shop or hidden,” said the official. “If found, the shopkeeper would be fined and the goods seized.”

The team conducts inspections at least twice a week. The official said some shopkeepers or wholesale dealers return the goods if found expired.

As a result of frequent inspections and awareness, the official said no shops were found to have goods without a label in English.

“Although, we seized some cakes from a bakery for using newspaper to wrap the cakes, most of the shopkeepers were complying the rule,” said the official. “They are restricted from using any printed papers to wrap food or junk including betel nuts.”

The official also added that most of the shopkeepers are now cooperating and responsive during inspections unlike before.

The official added that most of the Bhutanese shopkeepers are not bothered about the dates because they follow the “last in, first out” practice instead of a “first in, first out” strategy while stacking goods, even after awareness.

This means when shopkeepers restock, they keep the products in front of the old stock.

“They should first sell the old stock and then the new in order to sell before the expiry date,” said the official. “This is because they don’t check the expiry date most of the time.”

BAFRA officials give shopkeepers about 10 days to explain or complain. All the seized items are disposed after 10 days of seizure.

Yangchen C Rinzin,  Samdrupjongkhar