This means their products will be of international standards

Food: Come April and five companies, including the national airline, DrukAir would supply international standard food products to their customers if they qualify the final stage of the certification process.

Bhutan Agro Industries, Zimdra Foods, Bhutan Milk and Agro Pvt. Ltd, Terma Linca, and DrukAir will need to satisfy the international auditors to approve the ISO 22000 food safety and management system.

Agriculture ministry officials said its doesn’t however mean that the food products produced or served by these companies to date are unsafe to consume.

Food Safety Officer, Dechen Choki, said, “BAFRA inspectors have been conducting regular inspection and monitoring.” The new system takes safety to the highest level available.

In ISO 22000, the companies are required to consider the effects of the food chain prior to and after its operations when developing and implementing the food safety and management system.

Dechen Choki said once the system is in place, it reduces the job for the authority’s inspectors. It benefits the short-staffed BAFRA as the system takes care of the quality and other requirements and reduces the need for frequent inspection and monitoring compared to the past.

BAFRA officials said more companies are showing interest because this process is a costly affair and the pilot companies need not bear the major costs.

Once certified, the companies will have to make huge investments to implement the food safety and management system. The certification would be reviewed and audited annually and renewed after its expiry.

The authority is targeting companies that could afford to continue this process once they are certified.

“We could not take on Tashi Air because the airline does not have a kitchen and other necessary infrastructure in place,” another BARFA official said. The official said once the airline has the necessary inputs, it could be included in future projects.

Dechen Choki said an additional advantage for the companies is that during the certification process, a lot of the staff are trained which also helps build human resource capacity in the country.

The certification is divided into three phases. The personnel are trained in international standards, and if the businesses make required corrective changes after the first phases and meet the requirements, then they are certified.

The certification is the third phase of a pilot project of Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA). UN Industrial Development Organisation funds the project.

In June 2011, the first four companies received the certification.  Army Welfare Project in Gelephu, Bhutan Brewery Pvt Ltd in Pasakha, Zhiwaling and Taj Tashi hotels successfully organised and implemented the ISO 22000.

“The certification helped the companies to overcome the limitations of traditional approaches to food safety control system and gain easy access to the market,” Dechen Choki said.

By Tshering Palden