Even during lockdown, food adulteration is on the rise.

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According to officials, food adulteration is rampant in Nepal, with a long list of food items tainted with hazardous components ranging from milk, dairy products, spices, and water to tea, edible oil, and lentils.

 

 

Even during the lockdown, unscrupulous dealers appeared to be busy debasing food supplies and selling them to naive Nepalis. When the country was plagued by the coronavirus epidemic last year, the government ordered everyone to stay indoors for months to prevent the virus from spreading. As the infection caseload increased, another lockdown was instituted on April 29 that lasted until September 1.

However, dishonest producers continued to try to earn a fast buck by including illegal drugs in food products that are consumed by the public, posing a direct threat to public health.

In the first three months of the fiscal year, the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control said it had filed complaints against 27 enterprises with various district administration offices and courts (July 15 to October 15). The firms are accused of putting unlawful additives in food and selling products that are unsafe for human consumption.

Consumer advocates claim that even during the lockout, the manufacturing and distribution of contaminated and expired foods increased. They explained, “This happened because the government was not present in the market.”

During the evaluation period, the department and its regional offices conducted a series of market inspections and gathered 852 samples of food goods from across the country. Sixty-six samples were judged to be tainted or unfit for ingestion.

Food adulteration will continue to expand, according to consumer rights campaigners, as long as consumers regard it as a minor issue and the government downplays its influence on the health system.

“In Nepal, there are three levels of government, each of which is responsible for conducting market inspections. Food adulteration has continued to proliferate this legal clout “President of the National Consumer Forum, Prem Lal Maharjan.

“We don’t detect any government presence in the market.” The market is operating or is under the control of powerful dealers.”

According to Maharjan, the current Food Act of 1967 is ineffective.

“No one bothers to submit a case even if they are defrauded because the District Administrative Office is one of the institutions responsible for deciding market malpractice cases.” There is so much red tape that no one knows what decision has been reached.”

Nepal Tea Development Corporation of Charpane, Jhapa, was one of the enterprises hauled to court by the department for putting non-compliant labeling on its tea bags.

Kalika Dairy in Bhaktapur was accused of making or selling tainted curd. Krishna Pauroti Udyog of Tanahu broke labeling requirements, and Om Kailash Dhara Oil Mill in Bara was busted for selling low-quality mustard oil.

Aqua Nepal Bisleri, a Rupandehi-based drinking water plant, was fined for producing or selling tainted water.

Aashirbad Agro and Foods in Nawalparasi was discovered producing or selling low-quality spices, Rajdhani Dairy in Patan Industrial Area was discovered producing and selling adulterated processed milk, and Nepal Pellet Feed Industry in Bidur was discovered producing and selling adulterated chicken feed.

Buttabari Tea was discovered making and selling low-quality tea in Jhapa.

“Most of the cases are undergoing hearings various district administrative offices and courts,” said Matina Joshi Vaidya, the department’s director general.

“We don’t know much about what happened with the cases we filed,” she explained. “The agency doesn’t even maintain a record of the district administration offices’ or courts’ verdicts.”

According to the government report, nine lawsuits were filed against milk and dairy product producers, five against spice producers, five against lentil producers and food items manufactured from lentils, and three against processed drinking water manufacturers.

Tea manufacturers are facing two lawsuits, while sauce, edible oil, and animal feed firms are facing one lawsuit apiece.

Consumer complaints are never given priority, according to department officials, because the district administrative offices and courts are usually preoccupied with other matters.

“As a result, getting decisions on consumer-related disputes takes a long time,” Maharjan explained.

The modified Consumer Protection Act of 2018, which includes a provision mandating the government to establish a consumer court, has been in effect for three years. However, there is no indication that a consumer court will be established.

“This demonstrates how serious the government is about protecting consumer rights,” activists added.

The Ministry of Law, Justice, and Parliamentary Affairs has been asked to establish a consumer court, and a draft of the work method has been produced.

According to Vaidya, a consumer court will be established under the Consumer Act, whereas the Food Act is a specialized act that governs the actions taken against various businesses.

She went on to say that because the Food Act does not specifically specify expired food goods, the punishment meted out to violators appears to be light.

In July, the government introduced a bill in Parliament to modify and consolidate regulations relating to food purity and quality. The proposed legislation will impose severe penalties on those who make or sell tainted or contaminated food.

The bill has been in the works for three years, but due to the never-ending political upheaval, it has stalled.

The proposed penalties are substantially higher than those imposed by the current Food Act, which imposes a maximum penalty of six months in prison and Rs5,000 in fines.

The bill is being in the Upper House Legislative Committee, according to Vaidya.

“The government hasn’t done a good job of informing consumers about their rights. It also doesn’t have the funds to do so.”

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