World Health Day: Despite sharing a porous border with Jaigaon, the “food safety” practice in Phuentsholing is on the right track, Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) officials said, while observing World Health Day (WHD) in the town yesterday.

The ministry of health (MoH) and BAFRA observed the day themed “food safety”, where more than 100 entrepreneurs in the town attended.

Director general of BAFRA, Karma Dorji, said such a campaign of global reach was both relevant and timely.

“Food safety is an area of high relevance today, when we’re faced with an increasing emerging threat to food safety from hazards and contaminants, leading to food poisoning and food-borne diseases,” he said.

Safe and nutritious food sustains life, ideally contributing to good health, he said, but unsafe food can cause diseases, sometimes in very large outbreaks.

The director general also shared that food safety was a global requirement today.

Karma Dorji also said strong regulations; inspection and monitoring activities, laboratory testing, education, training, and competence were some means that are used to achieve food safety.

“Let us take this opportunity to alert government, manufacturers, retailers, and the public on the importance of food safety,” BAFRA director general said.

In their endeavour to promote food safety, BAFRA officials said they have facilitated other actors in the food chain to ensure that safe and quality food items were available to consumers.

BAFRA’s officer-in-charge in Phuentsholing, Phuntsho, said the town was doing well in controlling and rendering safety in all food transactions.

“We align to all the necessary acts and our mandates to monitor all the goods,” he said, adding that the authority checked cases ranging from street vending activities to all other illegal transactions.

The officer-in-charge also said they conduct random checks to ensure the quality of perishable and edible goods.

Phuntsho also cited a recent case, where 10,000 cartons of beer and 1,000 cartons of noodles were disposed.

“They voluntarily came to us and disposed the expired goods,” he said. “It shows people are aware.”

Shortage of technical staff, however, is a major challenge for the authority.  There are eight of them, who have to monitor the whole town.

A bar and restaurant owner, Pema, also shared her thoughts about Phuentsholing’s food safety practices.

“We receive frequent BAFRA inspections,” she said. “Most of us are now aware of the importance on safety.”

World Health Organisation (WHO) representative in Bhutan , Dr Ornella Lincetto, also shared the message from the organisation’s southeast-Asia region.

Dr Ornella Lincetto said unsafe food and water is linked to the deaths of an estimated two million people annually, including about 700,000 children.

“Ensuring food safety starts at the farm level,” she said. “Good agricultural practices need to be applied to reduce microbial and chemical hazards.”

Although food safety is controlled and monitored in the town, Bhutanese often visit the neighbouring town of Jaigaon, where monitoring is not possible.

By Rajesh Rai, Phuentsholing