Kathmandu, June 26
The draft of Food Safety and Standards Act 2018 has been stuck at the Ministry of Law for the last four months.
Aiming to replace the existing five-decade-old food act, the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DoFTQC) had prepared the draft and submitted to the ministry four months ago to finalise it. Currently, the DoFTQC is following the Food Act endorsed in 1967.
“In the four months since we submitted the draft of the new food act, the law ministry has called us just once for discussion,” said Matina Joshi Vaidya, acting director general of DoFTQC.
“However, after that, we have not received any new update from the ministry,” she added. She further said that as laws cannot be prepared overnight, in-depth discussions and critical analysis are necessary.
“The ministry is doing internal works, so hopefully the draft will be finalised soon,” she said. “Thereafter, it will be submitted at the Parliament for enactment.”
This basically means that it might be a few months before the new act comes into force, she added.
In lack of contextual laws, the country’s food safety has been affected.
Every year, the DoFTQC receives a number of complaints from consumers against traders selling substandard food in the market. As per the data compiled by the DoFTQC, a total of 136 complaints against individuals or groups were registered at the DoFTQC in the first eight months of the current fiscal year. The number has already surpassed the total 135 complaints received in the last fiscal year.
The DoFTQC also admits that in lack of strict rules, the wrongdoers are not really being deterred from engaging in such unethical practices. Thus, to secure the public’s right to safe food, the new food act is necessary, Joshi said.
As per the DoFTQC, the draft of new food act has proposed that anybody who produces or sells sub-standard food will be punished with five years’ imprisonment and a fine ranging from Rs 400,000 to Rs 600,000.
Similarly, if anybody dies after consuming such sub-standard food, then the producer or seller will be punished with a fine of at least Rs one million and imprisonment of five years.
Likewise, if a consumer suffers irreparable bodily damage due to a food product, then the seller or producer will have to pay up to Rs 500,000 as compensation to the victim along with treatment expenses till the person recovers completely.
If any inedible chemical or bacteria is found in the food, the producer and seller will be imprisoned for six months to one year and charged a fine of Rs 200,000.
A version of this article appears in print on June 27, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.