The Food Purity and Quality Bill (hereinafter referred to as the “Bill”) was presented at the parliament in mid-July 2020 which specializes on purity and quality standards that must be followed during the entire production, transportation, distribution and consumption process. Revoking the Food Act 1967 (hereinafter referred to as the “Previous Act”), the preamble and objective of the Bill clearly sets health and consumer rights protection as the priority. The Bill reinstates most of the previous provisions of the Act and also includes conceptual substance and detailed clarity incorporated under the Food Rules, 1970.
Widening the definition in comparison to the previous Act, the Bill defines the term “Food” as any solid or liquid consumable edible or any food additives and substance, spices, packed water bottles, any alcoholic or non-alcoholic beverages, chewing gum or bubble gum. Similarly, the Bill reads that the Government of Nepal shall specify the necessary standards and publish the same in the Rajpatra, which are to be met by the concerned stakeholders engaged in food production and distribution. It designates the provincial government as well as local level government to formulate necessary laws and standards to regulate the operations relating to food. As per the bill, a committee shall be formed to suggest and recommend on necessary regulations to be formulated or necessary changes to be carried out for the food quality protection and maintenance of food standards.
The Bill provides that anyone willing to establish and operate a food industry would need a recommendation from the Department of Food Technology and Quality Control (hereinafter referred to as the “Department“). But, there are some industries for which the prior approval is not mandatory from the Department itself, but approval from various local level authorities are needed. Under such local level monitoring, retail shops, street vendors, hotels, motels, restaurants, food courts, food parks, bistros, cafes, catering, home stay, or any other food service providers, can obtain permission from the local government. In addition to the food service providers mentioned above, any other industry that wishes to import or export food shall seek permission from the local office’s head, these industries shall take separate specific permission form every level of the local government, as per the requirement, and after the necessary inquiry, the government shall provide them with the permission within 30 days.
In line with the previous Act and the Rule, manufacturing, importing, exporting, selling and distributing any low-quality food products harmful to consumers’ health is strictly prohibited. The Bill reinstates that no sub-standard food shall be produced, manufactured, sold, imported, exported and retailed.
Similarly, the food industry shall not commit fraud of any manner when producing, manufacturing, importing, exporting or selling the food product.
Packaging compliance for Food Products
The product shall not be portrayed as any other food product or edible, also, the composition of the ingredients shall not be inaccurate and food of the lower standard shall not be portrayed as higher ones. Food of higher quality shall not be contaminated and mixed with the lower quality. Use of any tagline, logo, image, graphics or packaging of another product which might mislead the consumers is strictly prohibited.
Food products should mandatorily be labeled with the following informations in a correct manner, including the following:
- Product’s name,
- Manufacturing company’s name and address,
- Ingredients used,
- Selling price,
- Batch number
- Manufacturing date,
- Expiry date,
- Disclaimer or warning if any specific group of consumers cannot consume the product and
- Any other information as prescribed.
Likewise, products that are to be imported or exported should have specified details in English, Nepali or any other convenient language for the consumers.
Fruits and vegetables produced and sold in Nepal are not mandatorily required to have labelling, however, those imported must have it.
What is the Responsibility of the Food Industry?
Duties of Manufacturing Industries
As specified in the Bill, manufacturers have to make sure about the quality of food, maintenance of health, hygiene and cleanliness at the manufacturing factory. Also, food manufacturers have to provide the product called out for investigation whenever asked for it and have to comply with all the prevailing rules and regulation.
The manufacturers can be asked to call back their sub-standard food products if they reach the market. Similarly, in event where there happens to occur any minor or major production error that causes food products to be hazardous for human consumption, such food manufacturing industry must publish a notice regarding the call back of such hazardous products distributed in the market.
Duties of Food Importers
Industries wishing to import food or edibles, should obtain two major prior permissions from the Department or office prescribed by the Department.
- Import approval: To import foods products in Nepal; and
- Entry approval/permission: Before importing the food products in Nepalese territory which reaches to custom checkpoints, after getting import approval as above, needs to take entry permission. Besides this, importers are required to abide by the basic food standard as prescribed by the Bill.
Duties of Food Exporters
If the food exporting industries are willing to certify their products to test whether their products comply with the quality standards of the export-oriented country, they can get their products certified from the Department or office prescribed by the Department. The cost for the approval shall be as prescribed. Besides, exporters have to abide by the basic food standard as prescribed by the Bill.
Duties of Food Distributors and Transporters
Food distributors/transporters shall also properly distribute and take proper extra care when delivering meat and dairy products, keep them clean and according to the standards of consumption. Edible and nonedible products shall not be transported together.
Duties of Wholesalers
The wholesalers should keep the storage and warehouse clean and store the edibles properly according to the types of food. They shall not change or modify any labels in the products while storing them.
Duties of Retailers
The retailers should not sell any products without the label and should store the products in the required manner and also comply with all the other standards of the Bill to keep the edibles in the good and prescribed condition.
The Bill talks about the formation and duties of the food regulating committee, department and the food testing laboratory where any food under enquiry shall be standard-tested. The Bill provisions about the investigation of the food products appointing a food inspector who is responsible to carry out necessary inquiry, investigation, sudden raids, sample collection. The inspector can also stop the sale and distribution of the products and even destroy them if need be. State or local level governments can also inquire and examine if the products are according to the standards or not.
Also, if the food inspector finds any food produced, manufactured, imported or edibles called urgently for the investigation to be hazardous for human consumption, they can call such products back. Call back information of the hazardous edibles have to be published and publicly available so that consumers can be well informed about it, such called back products are strictly prohibited to be further resold or distributed.
Punishment provisions under the Bill
|Offences||Fine and Imprisonment|
|If any unregistered industry manufactures food and edibles or imports any food product without prior permission or does any act in contrary to the responsibilities mentioned in the Bill or sells market restricted edibles or if any registered industry does not comply with any orders of the concerned authority||Fine of Rs 10,000 to Rs. 50,000|
|Manufacturing, selling, importing, exporting, wholesaling, transporting, retailing contaminated foods||Fine of Rs. 50,000 to 5,00,000 or 1 to 5 years of imprisonment|
|Manufacturing, selling, importing, exporting, wholesaling, transporting sub-standard foods or by committing any fraud||Fine of Rs. 30,000 to 3,00,000 or imprisonment upto 3 years or both|
|Not complying with labelling provisions and acting contrary to the Bill||Fine of Rs. 50,000 or upto 6 months of imprisonment|
|Any act contrary to the provisions of the bill||Fine upto Rs. 50,000|
What will be the criminal liability of the organization?
If any firm, company or organization commits any offence as per the Bill, then the person who commits such offence or causes to commit such offence shall be made liable. If such a person could not be identified, then in case of a firm, the owner or partner(s) shall be made liable and in case of a company or organization, the director or managing director committing or causing to commit such offence shall be made liable. If such a person could not be identified, then the executive head shall bear the criminal liability.
Likewise, if any person imposes harm to any person by committing offence pursuant to this bill then the authority who looks after such cases shall make the offender to compensate the victim based on the actual harm and losses suffered by the victim.
And, the Government of Nepal shall be the plaintiff in any case taken forward under this Bill.
Section 40 provisions the activities that are deemed offences under the Bill. The act of creating hindrance in the process of sample collection shall be fined with Rs. 20,000.
Is the law adequate?
A new and improved food act was needed as the food manufacturing technology has improved and has become better over the years. Rightfully so, this Bill addresses major necessary elements that the old statute did not. It also, further emphasizing on the investigation and enquiry part, elaborates on the formation of the regulating committee and the duties and responsibilities of food inspector. Thus, this Bill exactly addresses all the issues that were needed to be addressed by the national food legislation and is absolutely drafted according to the current need.