All Pics by Makar Shrestha
Around 80 per cent of the total 4,113 samples of foodstuff randomly collected from factories and shops across the country failed food quality test in the last fiscal year, while 23 among the 29 categories were found contaminated, according to the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC). According to a DFTQC report, government lab tests even showed presence of radioactive elements in samples of milk packets collected from the market. Products ranging from salt to pickles and chocolates to meat were found substandard and containing high quantity of inedible substances. Forty percent of the samples of refined milk contained harmful bacteria and pesticides, the report says. It further says that samples of “mineral water’ that is sold in jars contained 34 per cent bacteria and 27 percent harmful chemicals. “Seventy percent of the samples of meat products were not fit for consumption,” the report says.
SEP 13 – A government lab test has confirmed contamination in Gudpak, a popular sweet produced by Corner Taja Gudpak Bhandar and Shree Krishna Gudpak at New Road and the Kanhaiya Brand Ghee. Last week, the Department of Commerce had sent samples of the Gudpak and Kanhaiya Ghee to the Department of Food Technology and Quality (DFTQ) for tests. The DFTQ report said Kanhaiya Ghee was substandard and contained a mere 1.16 percent fat against the need of 28 percent. “Lab test reports have shown that the products were contaminated and posed a risk to people’s health,” Jiban Prava Lama, the director general of the DFTQ, said.
On Monday, the food technology department sent the reports to the Kathmandu District Administration Office (DAO). The report said Kanhaiya Ghee was not safe to consume. “The ghee is not edible as it contains only 1.16 percent fat instead of the required 28 percent,” Lama said, adding that DFTQ was conducting additional tests to find out whether animal fat has been used.
The DAO has assured strict action as per the Black Marketing and Some Other Social Offenses Punishment Act against those found guilty of producing low quality food. “The Gudpak and the Ghee were found to be inedible. The traders will now be punished as per the law,” said Kathmandu CDO Laxmi Prasad Dhakal.
Normally, a government lawyer files a case in the District Court or in the DAO based on the lab test reports and police investigation. If the case is filed in the DAO, the CDO takes action under the Black Marketing Act or the Food Act. The CDO can send the offenders to five years in prison and impose a fine based on the nature of the crime under the Black Marketing Act. The Food Act gives the CDO authority to impose a fine of Rs 5,000-to Rs 10,000 and send the offender to two years in jail.
As per the Consumers Protection Act, the government can send the offenders to 14 years in jail and fine up to Rs 500,000. But government officials say the process of action against the offenders through this law takes a long time.
Meanwhile, a monitoring team from the Kathmandu DAO and the food technology department on Monday inspected the Pushpa Dairy Firm. According to Sahadev Gautam, the chairman of Citizen Justice Consumer Forum, who was in the inspection team, they destroyed some 1,000 litres of contaminated milk at Pushpa Dairy. The team had found the dairy using a broken filter system while contaminated water was being mixed in the milk. “We have brought with us a sample of the milk powder and milk ready for sale,” Gautam said. He added that the inspection team ordered the firm to change or repair the filter system, label the products properly and not to use powdered milk until they come up with a lab report.
SEP 07 – It seems the government has finally woken up after recent revelations that sweet manufacturers were using substandard materials and preparing sweets in unhygeinic conditions. On Wednesday, police arrested Yog Prasad Agrawal, the owner of Kanhaiya Ghee Packaging Industry, for selling adulterated ghee in the market and also issued arrest warrants against Narendra Maskey, the owner of Corner Taja Gudpak Bhandar, and owners of Shri Krishna Gudpak Bhandar and Anmol Catering and Sweets, for selling substandard sweets, Superintendent of Police Kedar Rijal said.
According to the Director General of the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control, Jivan Prabha Lama, a government lab report has revealed that Kanhaiya Ghee had zero percent original fat and that the company was found to have been using animal fat. Sources said the company may have been using fat wastage of pork and water buffalo, which is available at throwaway prices in Kathmandu’s meat market. The offenders will be tried under the Black Marketing Act 1975, which provisions one to two years of prison term or Rs 5,000 to 10,000 in fine or both.
“Since these cases have been registered at the District Administration Office, we have no other option but to go through the Black Marketing Act,” said Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, the Chief District Officer of Kathmandu.
The police crackdown follows a strong directive from the Finance and Labour Relations Committee (FLRC) and increased concern from all quarters in view of the upcoming festivals like Dashain and Tihar. The parliamentary panel, which had summoned government officials to discuss the issue, directed authorities to continue market inspections throughout the year.
Chandra Ghimire, officiating secretary at the Ministry of Commerce and Supplies, said the ministry has been facing problems as they lack the required manpower and funds to control illegal activities in the market. “We need at least a semi-judicial legal authority to take immediate action,” he said.
Following the meeting, the committee directed the officials to submit a detailed report on the places inspected, the directives issued and details of action taken. The committee also directed the government to provide the needed resources, additional security personnel and manpower to conduct effective market monitoring. Keeping in view the black marketing of air and bus tickets during the festivals, the committee directed the government to carry out inspections in this sector too. According to the Kathmandu CDO, the Kathmandu District Administration Office has formed five units to look over five sectors–food, petroleum products, meat items, medicine and weighing standards. Dhakal said the units will keep an eye on the market up to mid-October in the first phase of the plan.