Food: Regulating food labelling, expiry date and imposing penalties are some of the biggest challenges facing the food regulatory and quarantine officials.

Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) officials said that there is a need to amend provisions of certain sections of the Food Rules & Regulations 2007.

BAFRA’s focal officer for food safety, Gyem Bidha, said that food-labelling regulation, which was implemented in 2008 has failed to exist in the current market. “The regulation requires all imported food commodities to have a label either in English or in Dzongkha,” she said.

However, today most of the food items, especially those imported from countries like Thailand do not come with English label. “Labelling on food is important as it informs the customers about the products’ details and lets them know what they are consuming,” said Gyem Bidha. “The items imported from Thailand are usually from the local markets that are comparatively cheaper than the export commodities.”

Gyem Bidha said that for an effective implementation of the labelling regulation, only food items with label in English should only be imported. But this becomes expensive for most of our business operators because the export markets are usually costly. “This might hamper the local and small scale business industries in the country.”

The debate, she said, has been continuing since 2008. “We still haven’t come to a conclusion on this matter and it will require some time to finalize the decision among the stakeholders concerned.”

Imposing fines and penalties is the next challenge faced by most of the BAFRA officials. According to the Food Rules & Regulations 2007, a fixed fine of 10 times the market value of the incriminating commodity will be imposed on the person or food establishment who violets the rules irrespective of the gravity of the offence.

BAFRA officials said that the suggestions and recommendations will be taken into consideration and consulted with other stakeholders to develop a draft regulation.

Gyem Bidha said that the revised draft regulation will then be submitted to the ministries concerned.

Younten Tshedup