Draft of Food Safety and Standards Act 2018 being submitted this week
KATHMANDU, Dec 24: The Department of Food Technology and Quality Control has prepared the draft of Food Safety and Standards Act 2018 to submit to the government. The draft, if finalized by the government and enacted by the parliament, will replace the existing Food Act that is in place since September 9, 1967.
The department is planning to submit the draft to its line ministry, the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Development, by Tuesday.
If enacted, consumers will get a new and reformed law on food safety after five decades.
“The old law could not meet the demand and standards of today’s market. The department, along with other stakeholders, has taken this initiative of not only amending the old Act but also of bringing provisions that could address concerns of today’s changing market,” said Sanjeev Kumar Karn, director general of the department.
According to Karn, the draft has proposed the distribution of the responsibility of maintaining food safety and standards among local units, the provincial government, and the federal government.
“The draft has proposed new institutional structures and policies that could protect the consumers’ right to have healthy products,” Karn told Republica.
The draft has proposed that anybody who produces or sells sub-standard food product will be punished with five years imprisonment and a fine ranging from Rs 400,000 to Rs 600,000.
Similarly, if anybody dies after consuming sub-standard food product, then the producer or seller of such product will be punished with a fine of at least Rs 1 million and imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.
Likewise, if a consumer suffers irreparable bodily damage due to a food product, then the seller or producer will have to pay Rs 500,000 in compensation to the victim along with treatment expenses till the person regains his health.
If any inedible chemical or bacteria is found in the food product, the producer and seller will be imprisoned for a term from six months to one year and slapped a fine of Rs 200,000.
Karn said that the draft has addressed all areas of food security that are beneficial for both producers and consumers.
“The Food Act of 1967 is not suitable for today as it contains only soft punishment provisions against the wrongdoers,” he said. “The guilty can easily escape with easy punishment as per the existing Act, and they have been repeating the same mistake again and again.”
“To ensure food security in the country, we have drafted a rule with stricter provisions against the wrongdoers. In lack of strong law, market irregularities will continue,” Karn said.
According to the Food Act 1967 if anybody produces, sells, exports or imports sub-standard food items, they may be punished with a negligible fine ranging from Rs 1,000 to 2,000 for the first instance, and from Rs 2,000 to 5,000 each time from the second instance onward, or with imprisonment for a term of six months to one year or with both.
If any person is likely to die or dies or suffers irreparable bodily damage by consuming sub-standard food product, the producer or seller of such food may be punished with a fine ranging from Rs 10,000 to Rs 25,000 and imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years.
“We hope that the new draft if enacted into law, will bring new changes in the food security scenario of the country and ensure the consumers’ right to healthy food,” said Jyoti Baniya, president of the Forum for Protection of Consumer Rights.
“Till now we were left with an ineffective law that was written to suit the times of five decades ago,” Baniya said. “The Nepali people are not suffering due to lack of food, but due to lack of knowledge about food. Lack of awareness on the consumers’ right, food knowledge and weak laws are the challenges for food security in the country. We hope the new law will address this issue.”
“It has already been late to replace the old Act,” he added. “The government should work to enact the draft into law as soon as possible.”