Government to amend Food Safety ActThe government is preparing to amend the Food Safety Act to broaden the definition of food and bring more types of malpractices in food trade under the Act’s purview.
The government is preparing to amend the Food Safety Act to broaden the definition of food and bring more types of malpractices in food trade under the Act’s purview.
Government officials believe introduction of the new law will help control food adulteration and other wrongdoings.
Mohan Krishna Maharjan, senior food officer at the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC), said the proposed amendment to the Act incorporates all types of edibles, except for tobacco, medicines and cosmetic products, under the category of food.
“The current Act has defined adulteration only as food contamination,” said Maharjan, presenting a paper at an interaction here on Sunday. “The proposed amendment will also include the presence of chemical residues, microbes and toxin in food under the adulteration category.”
The new Act seeks to take prompt action against traders involved in malpractices. It will authorise the DFTQC’s director general to penalise the wrongdoers. “The department chief will be given the authority to take immediate action against traders involved in sensitive issues related to the people’s health,” according to the officials.
Currently, DFTQC only has the right to forward the cases to the district administration office seeking action.
The new Act has also envisaged raising the cash penalty amount against businesses involved in malpractices by up to 20 times. The penalty currently ranges from Rs1,000 to Rs100,000 based on the nature of the misconduct.
The existing Food Act 1967 has divided misconduct under four categories: Selling contaminated food, selling sub-standard products, running business without obtaining licenses, and compensation payment.
Under the first three categories, the penalty ranges from Rs1,000 to Rs10,000 and a jail term of up to a year. The compensation amount ranges from Rs25,000 to Rs100,000 and the jail term in such cases is up to three years.
DFTQC is considering imposing quality control on food importers at customs points. The existing Food Act 1967 talks about regulating contamination, labelling and use of additive substances in edibles. However, it is silent on risk assessment and quality certification at customs points. “The new Act has targeted to regulate these parameters that are expected to prevent import of low-quality food by bribing customs officials,” said Maharjan.
Speaking at the programme, expert Dev Bhakta Shakya said the new Act should incorporate issues related to food handling and transporting. “Similarly, a separate provision is needed for small farmers who sell their products directly in the market.”
Traders criticised the government for failing to address growing import of substandard foods.