Albeit not rampant compared to past years, residents say retail and wholesale shops in Trashigang still sell expired goods.
A resident, who bought noodles and biscuits from one of the shops, said she was surprised later when her kids at home told her that the goods were already past the expiry date.
According to the Food Rules and Regulations of Bhutan 2017, a person found selling any food after the ‘date of expiry’ or ‘best before date’ shall be subject to a fine equivalent to the market value of the incriminating commodity and such food commodity shall be seized and disposed under the supervision of Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) officials without payment of any compensation.
Despite several warnings by BAFRA officials and surprise inspections, residents say the illegal practice is still continued by a few shopkeepers and many innocent people, particularly those who are illiterate, are cheated by the shopkeepers.
Similarly, Sonam Rabgay, a resident from Kanglung, said though the practice of selling expired goods has declined, shopkeepers have become very clever these days.
“Shopkeepers are aware of it, but they still continue to sell the expired goods to innocent people and children. A few shops even sell defective products to the customers,” he added.
According to the Consumer Protection Act of Bhutan 2012, the producer of defective product shall be liable where any injury is caused to consumer’s life, body or property by the defective product.
An official, who wished not be named, said many customers do not check the expiry date of a product before purchase and it was same with the shopkeepers too.
A shopkeeper from Trashigang said they do look and check at the expiry dates while procuring goods. He added that the practice was once common but not anymore.
Furthermore, Dorji, a shopkeeper from Kanglung, said they have to depend on the wholesalers to restock their shops. “We procure most of the items from Samdrup Jongkhar and instances of expired items are there and in such cases, we return them.”
Meanwhile, a BAFRA official said that they carry out monthly inspection and if any expired goods are found, the goods are seized and defaulters imposed penalties, according to the Food Act.
“We can’t say such practices are not common, but the shopkeepers still seem to be aware of the rules and hide the expired goods, though we carry out surprise inspection,” said the official from BAFRA.
Additionally, the official added that such practices have declined and that they didn’t come across such cases so far.
However, last month BAFRA officials fined a vegetable wholesale dealer in Trashigang with Nu 90,000 for illegal possession of green chilies from India.
Jigme Wangchen from T/gang