More tests will be conducted to see winter crops are contaminated 

Food: Vegetables and fruits from across the border imported for sale in Phuentsholing are safe to consume, Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) officials have confirmed.

With the recent rapid tests conducted for various vegetables and fruits, including milk, the authority’s officer-in-charge in Phuentsholing, Phuntsho said the produces Bhutanese consume at the moment are free from chemical contaminations and are safe.

“As of today, all tests we have conducted have been negative,” the BAFRA official said, adding that they initially had thought the produces imported were contaminated. “We did about three to four rapid tests.”

However, the officials said the results were “negative” due to various reasons, which otherwise, the results could have been different. Only few items of vegetables and fruits are imported during the summer.

The chemical contains in these produces might have been washed due to continuous rainfall in summer, called leaching, BAFRA officials said.

“The import of vegetables in the country during summer is less,” officer-in-charge Phuntsho said. “There are more locally grown vegetables in summer.”

Mushrooms, cabbage, onion, chilies, mango, pear, bananas, and apples were some of the items BAFRA had recently tested. Local produces in vegetables and fruits have also resulted negative.

The officials also said they are going to test all the items this winter. It is the authority’s objective to monitor, check and balance for consumption for the people in Phuentsholing.

Meanwhile, it is the first time since BAFRA officials in Phuentsholing can conduct their own tests. Earlier, the samples were sent to the national food-testing laboratory at Yusipang in Thimphu.

BAFRA officials said they immediately seize the consignment if there are contaminations tested. If the contaminations are exceeding the permissible limits, the authority destroys the produce.

Permissible limits depend on the chemicals used. It is based as per the international best practices, BAFRA officials said.

The food regulatory authority in Phuentsholing has also tested milk sold in the milk booths in the town. There are currently two booths, which according to the officials are unadulterated.

Last year, BAFRA had stopped people from across the border selling milk inside Bhutan. About 50 percent of the milk in a bottle was found to be water, officials said, following which the practice was stopped.

There are four officials with BAFRA in Phuentsholing who are trained in conducting such tests.

Rajesh Rai, Phuentsholing