Consumers fall victims to unfair trade practices

KATHMANDU: Buying foodstuffs from groceries? What will you consider before making a choice of the items? Beware! The foodstuffs you buy from groceries can also harm your health.

Consumers in general are falling prey to unethical practices thanks to the lack of awareness and proper monitoring. They usually do not consider how safe the food items showcased on the grocer’s shelf are.

Consumer Protection Act 1998 has guaranteed the safety of foodstuffs sold in marketplace. The Act requires any food packet and can to mention the name and the address of the producer, registration number of the industry, production and expiry date in English or in Nepali. Also, they should give detailed method of consuming the goods and possible impact of such consumption.

Despite the legal provision, many of the food items are found to have not mentioned such information. Tampered labels are also all-pervasive. The concerned departments entrusted with combating such unethical practices are not paying heed to the vulnerable section of the consumers. Purna Chandra Wasti, media officer and senior food research officer, Department of Food Technology and Quality Control, said that his office was monitoring the market to see whether the dealers and retailers are abiding by the consumer law.

Wasti further stated that the issue of Chinese food was a wake-up call for his department. “There are some instances when we have seized loads of substandard and illegally produced food items being imported to Nepal from the boarder areas.”

Though food inspectors boast of doing their job effectively, most of the grocers say they have not faced any unannounced checking.

“I frequently find dates that have been tampered with in food packets. Who is to blame for all these! I am watchful while buying food packets,” whispered a shopper at a grocery at Anamnagar. Language is a hurdle for general consumers. Many buyers understand only Nepali while the information about the food items is mentioned in English.

Arguably, there is not a single food item, which has mentioned the dates in Nepali. To make the matter worse, most of the Chinese foods have not mentioned the dates and other information in English. It is punishable by law.

Ram Chandra Simkhada, consumer lawyer and secretary at Consumers’ Rights Protection Forum, blamed that the government was not serious enough to ensure consumer rights.

“It requires the government to raise public awareness to combat unfair trade practices and for better business ethics,” he said.