To strengthen the protection of consumers from unsafe food, the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) and Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on 13May this week.
The MoU is signed to collaborate the activities such as food testing, timely inspection of food and food businesses, compliance check to the prescribed standard and requirements for food quality and safety and promotion and enforcement of labeling of packaged food.
The two agencies have identified areas of cooperation and collaboration, and agreed to promote consumer protection affairs and ensure general food quality and safety; mutually identify areas of cooperation in general food quality and safety from time to time and collaborate to provide consumer protection services.
It was also agreed that in the event the OCP and its representatives intercept unsafe food and food products in the market while carrying out regular monitoring activities, they shall, in consultation and collaboration with BAFRA, take appropriate actions such as product detention, disposal, recalling and penalties.
Where applicable, the matter shall be referred to BAFRA for appropriate actions as per The Food Act of Bhutan 2005 and its rules and regulations thereof.
Further, where product testing is required for protecting consumer interests, ensuring consumer safety and providing appropriate remedies to aggrieved consumers, OCP will refer to BAFRA for testing, if available.
BAFRA will also extend the National Food Testing Laboratory’s services to OCP or provide appropriate advice including identification of external laboratories in the event testing is not possible at the National Food Testing Laboratory. If subcontracting of samples needs to be done in laboratories outside Bhutan, then OCP shall bear the testing and other related charges, as applicable.
It was also agreed that where required, the contracting parties shall provide expert views and opinions and technical backstopping to each other in relation to food safety and for addressing and redressing consumer issues.
In terms of legal frameworks, it was agreed that the contracting parties shall participate in development and formulation of regulatory framework to present consumers and protect economic interests and legal rights.
There are also other government agencies and stakeholders carrying out the activities, directly or indirectly, in relation to protecting consumer interests and promoting fair trade practices in the market that merit leveraging on their functions and building institutional linkage with them to strengthen consumer protection affairs.
The OCP is also looking forward to establishing institutional linkage and working relationships with these stakeholders for collaborating, coordinating and complementing each other for enhancing consumer protection affairs.
As of now, the OCP has established institutional linkages, through memorandum of understanding, with the Office of Consumer Protection Board, Thailand; Royal Monetary Authority of Bhutan; Bhutan Standard Bureau and has joined Consumers International as a member.
Economic Affairs Minister Loknath Sharrma, who graced the occasion as the chief guest emphasized on the need for access to safe and quality products at reasonable rate.