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Food Safety Regulation in Nepal

by Yadav Sharma Bajagai


1         Introduction

 

Being member of different international organizations, Nepal has many food safety related obligations to comply with rules and regulations of those organizations. Food safety related issues started to become matter of increased concern and one of the priority areas of the government after the country has become member of the world trade organization (WTO) in 2004.

Being a developing country, food chains are generally long in developing countries like Nepal as compared to those in developed countries due to poor infrastructure which makes the food more vulnerable to be contaminated with harmful agents (microorganism and chemicals). In addition, infrastructures related to technical regulation, conformity assessment and safety of food are still in developing phase which requires more focus and investment for better functioning. Similarly, Inspections and regulation of food related business are challenging and difficult due to scattered and large number of primary producers, traders and retailers. 

2         Legislations to regulate food safety

 

Regulation of the safety of food in Nepal began in 1966 by enforcing the food act by the government.  Although food safety regulation began as early as 1966, its importance was increased after 1990s due to increased economic liberalization and international trade. Traditionally, food safety related rules and regulations were basically based on inspecting and analysing end products to ensure safety of the food. But this approach has been increasingly replaced by total quality management i.e. ‘farm to fork’ approach which focuses on all level of production, processing, transportation and trading. Modern food safety related regulations and policies have been generally formulated following codex principles and guidelines focussing on preventive measures to produce safe food. Similarly, existing regulations and standards have also been reviewed to make them complying with codex standards wherever feasible according to national regulation and infrastructures. 


Requirement for international markets and provisions under sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) agreement as a member of WTO made the government impose regulations and standards to ensure food safety and to protect human, animal and plant health from exotic pests and diseases. Most of the new regulations are under three food safety related parent statutory laws namely Food Act 1966, Plant Protection Act 1972 and Animal Health and Livestock Services Act 1998. 

Although Nepal, being a member of WTO, is bound to formulate and enforce sanitary and phytosanitary measures based upon the standards, guidelines and recommendations of Codex Alimentarius Commission, the International Animal health Organization (OIE) and the International Plant Protection Convention (IPPC), the country is still not adopting all international standards and guidelines due to lack of adequate resources. Similarly, Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) is still not mandatory for food producers, processor and handlers in Nepal. But, the country is giving priority to review and reform existing legislation on food safety to comply with international regulations and standards.  

2.1       Food act 1966 and Food rules 1970

 

Food act 1966, which has been amended several times, is the primary legislation governing regulation of food safety in Nepal.  The act and rules are continuously being amended as an attempt to comply with international standards and guidelines. Following are the major provision made in the Food act 1966 to ensure safe food.
·         Ban in production, sale and distribution of inferior, contaminated or unsafe food items.
·         Prosecution for misbranding of food items by false statement.
·         Provision for the detention of food products under suspicion.
·         Requirement of license for food establishments.
·         Provision of penalties (including sanction) to firms and corporate bodies if found to responsible in the production, sales and distribution of unsafe food.
·         Establishes the government bodies responsible for enforcement of food safety related rules and regulations and describes their functions and responsibilities.
·         Set out the power and process to formulate food standards and quality.
·         Regulates the packaging requirements, labelling requirements and storage requirements of a food item.
However, the food act and any other legislation has no provision to regulate the traceability of the food items which should be addressed to keep track of the food.  

2.2       Plant protection act 2007 and Plant protection rules 2010

 

These legislations regulate the trade of plants and plant products. The major objective of the act is to protect national or regional fauna by preventing introduction, establishment, prevalence and spread of pests while during trade of plant and plant products. The act has provision to designate any national level office as National Plant Protection Organization. Similarly, the act has also provision relating to entry permit, sanitary certification and re-export certificate of plant and plant products. Pest control provision has also been included in the act.

2.3       Animal health & livestock services act 1998 and Regulations 1999

 

The animal health and livestock service act 1998 and regulations 1999 have been formed and enforced for healthy production, sale and distribution of animal and their products. The act also regulates import and export of livestock, their products and livestock production material important for food and health purpose of the people. The act made the provision for animal quarantine posts to regulate the import of animals, animal products and animal production materials. 

2.4       Others

 

There are several other legislations which directly or indirectly regulate food safety. Following legislations affect the food safety and quality sectors either directly or indirectly.
·         The Pesticide Act 1991 and Regulations 1993 – regulate the use of pesticides in agriculture including maximum residue limit of pesticides.
·      Animal Slaughterhouse & Meat Inspection Act 1999 and Regulations 2001 – regulates safety of meat 
.

3         Institutional infrastructure to regulate food safety

 

Quality infrastructures with well defined roles and responsibilities with integrated legislation and monitoring system will ensure safe food to the public and goodwill for international trade. In Nepal, food safety and quality management lies under the jurisdiction of Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives. Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC) under Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives is the major government institution responsible for food safety and quality management. Enforcement of food act 1966 is the major regulatory activity of the DFTQC. Although food safety related matters are mostly handled by the DFTQC, Department of Agriculture (DoA) and Department of Livestock Services (DLS) share some responsibilities to regulate food safety. Similarly, Nepal Council for Standards (NCS) and Nepal Bureau of Standards and Metrology (NBSM) are the governing body for food related standards.

Generally, DFTQC is responsible to regulate food in the market and ready to eat food while DoA and DLS are responsible to regulate primary production and some processing. But there are lots of gaps and overlaps in the roles and responsibilities of these organizations which make the regulation process more complicated. Similarly, Ministry of Health and Population is also involved in the process for epidemiological study of food related illness. Lack of coordination among different government institutions is reducing their efficiency. 

Consumer groups organized in different organization are also actively involved in creating awareness to the general public and creating pressure to the government in the formulation and implementation of the rules and regulation.  

3.1       Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (DFTQC)

 

Department of Food Technology and Quality Control, which is established in 1961, is the competent authority which has mandate to enforce rules and regulations regarding food safety and quality management to ensure the availability of safe and quality food. Following are the major activities of DFTQC regarding food safety and quality management:

  • ·         Food inspection and checking compliance of food industry and retailers.
  • ·         Licensing and record keeping of food industries.
  • ·         Work as SPS inquiry point and communicate about SPS related rules, regulations and standards.
  • ·         Standardization and harmonization of food.
  • ·         Certification for export and import of food.
  • ·         Execution of consumer awareness activities about food safety and quality.
  • ·         Development of appropriate food technology and training.

3.2       Department of Livestock Services (DLS)

 

Department of Livestock Services also share some responsibilities for the implementation of rules and regulation in animal production to ensure safety of animal origin food. Enforcement of Animal Health & Livestock Services Act 1998, Animal Health & Livestock Services Regulation 1999, Animal Slaughterhouse & Meat Inspection Act 1999 and Animal Slaughterhouse & Meat Inspection Regulation 2001 is under the jurisdiction of this department. Animal disease surveillance, management of animal quarantine check posts, regulation of drug and hormone used in food animals are some of the major responsibilities of the DLS.

3.3       Department of Agriculture (DoA)

 

Department of Agriculture (DoA) is generally responsible to enforce food safety related rules and regulation in pre-harvest agriculture production system. Enforcement of Plant Protection Act 1972 comes under the jurisdiction of DoA. Extension of Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) to the farmers, pest surveillance, pest risk analysis and management of plant quarantine check posts are some of the major activities of the DoA to ensure safety of plant origin food.
 

3.4       International membership

 

In the present world of interdependence and economic globalization international relationship, bilateral and multilateral agreements and international trade also affects the policy, rules and regulations of a country. The country has to comply with the rules and regulation of such international organization and agreements. Nepal is the member of following international organizations which affects the food safety related policy, rules and regulations.
  • ·        Codex alimentarius commission
  • ·         World trade organization (WTO)
  • ·         Food and agriculture organization (FAO) of the United Nations (UN)
  • ·         South Asian association for regional cooperation (SAARC)/
  • ·         World organization for animal health (OIE)
  • ·         Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC)

4         Food Standards

 

National Council for Standards (NCS) is the government body responsible to approve and endorse Nepalese standard. Nepal Bureau of Standards and Metrology (NBSM) acts as the secretariat for the NCS which prepares the country standards (Nepal standard) of food products and methods of food processing.  There are more than 100 Nepal standards in food sector related with food, food processing, transport and storage (table 1). Nepal is one of the active members of South Asian Regional Standards Organization (SARSO) established in 1999 and has been involved in the formation of regional standards of food and food processing methods. In addition, a separate government institution called Food Standardization Board (FSB) is present according to the provision in the Food Act 1966 which make recommendations to the government about food standards, principles and guidelines according to international practices and principles.

Table 1: Number of Nepal Standards related with food, food processing, transport and storage. Source: Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (2009)
Food groups
No. of standards
Milk and milk products
18
Fats and oils
16
Fruit and vegetable products
17
Spices and condiments
22
Tea, coffee, cocoa and their products
3
Salt
2
Cereals, pulses, and their products
23
Processed drinking water
2
Sweetening agent
3
Sweets and confectionary
3
Total
109

Citation:

This article has been published in  proceedings of "National Conference on Food Science and Technology (Food Conference-2012), 10-11 August, 2012, Kathmandu". Therefore suggested to be cited as:


Bajagai, YS 2012, 'Food Safety Regulation in Nepal and Issues in the Regulation of Meat Safety', in G Dawadi, KP Rai & BM Adhikari (eds), National Conference on Food Science and Technology (Food Conference-2012), 10-11 August, 2012, Kathmandu, Nepal, pp. 90-7.