Two jailed, six others fined for distributing expired products in marketConsumer protection body takes action against representatives of Ayan Distributor and Bishnu Laxmi Enterprises for peddling expired products by relabelling their dates.
The Department of Commerce, Supplies and Consumer Protection on Monday handed down jail terms and fines to eight people in a consumer product fraud case.
The director general of the department ordered one year imprisonment and fine payment to two people and fined six others for distributing and selling expired food and other consumer items by changing their expiration date labels.
Ronak Bothra, an Indian citizen and manager of Ayan Distributor, and Shankar Bayalkoti, owner of Bishnu Laxmi Enterprises, were slapped with one year imprisonment and Rs300,000 fine each.
Likewise, Pushpa Devi, Munna Thakur, Pappu Kumar Thakur, Shyam Prasad Singh, Ram Bahadur Bayalkoti and Bikram Prasad Gupta were fined Rs312,000 each for their involvement in relabelling expired products.
They were charged and penalised as per the Consumer Protection Act 2018.
Under the Act, if any one commits a consumer protection offence, the director general of the department is authorised, according to the gravity of the offence, to issue imprisonment or cash penalties or both.
The department has also suspended the operating permits of Bishnu Laxmi Enterprises and Ayan Distributor for two years. It has also issued orders to destroy the goods seized from the two firms that are worth more than Rs30 million.
Netra Prasad Subedi, director general of the department, said an investigation into the case established the fraud committed by the two firms. It was found that the workers of the two companies had been relabelling the expiration dates on packaged food products using machines and chemicals.
“Based on the evidence and the statements of the people involved in the racket, we decided to take appropriate action,” Subedi told the Post.
The machines and chemicals used for relabelling and expired goods worth nearly Rs29 million seized from the two firms will be destroyed in presence of police and public representatives, he added.
The department could not recall the goods that had already been distributed in the market.
On October 1, a joint team of police and the department had raided the warehouses of Ayan Distributors, which the department said was an authorised distributor of Unilever products in Nepal and also of United Distributors, a subsidiary of the well-known business house, Vishal Group.
Food brands like Snickers, Cadbury, Pringles, Tang, Oreo, BournVita and different products from Unilever like Horlicks, Dove shampoo, soaps and sanitiser were found to have been relabelled with new dates.
An official at the department said most of the products whose expiration dates had been relabelled were either produced by Unilever Nepal or imported Unilever products.
Consuming expired foods or foods that are past their best by date can be harmful to people.
Nutritionists say expired food products develop fungus, which may not be evident while consuming, but it will create adverse health problems in the long term.
Following the incident, the department is planning to hold a discussion with the Department of Customs and Ministry of Finance to come up with an effective way to examine the dates of imported packaged goods at customs, as it was found that many of the goods had already expired when they were imported.