The next time you eat the popular street foods in Thimphu, especially thukpa (noodles) and momos (dumplings), sold by street vendors, chances are that the foods are certified by the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regularity Authority (BAFRA).
An important mandate of BAFRA is to function as the national food quality and safety control agency. It ensures that foods sold are of good quality and safe for human consumption. BAFRA also trains the street food sellers on food safety and measurement from time to time. The street foods are also tested by BAFRA so it is safe to eat.
An official from BAFRA said that after training, the street food sellers are given a designated area to sell their food. If the street food sellers are found selling the food without the training, then BAFRA notes the names of the sellers to enroll them for the training, after which they are certified to run the street food business.
BAFRA also collects samples of food in the hotels and restaurants, even more so if there are complaints from the customer. The official said that the sudden checking of food quality and safety is part of their regular activity. There are laws in place to deal with the sub standard quality and safety of food.
The training on food safety and measurement are provided whenever it is essential and at any time by BAFRA. The food business license is given to the street food seller only after the completion of the training. The licensing process including training had earlier been outsourced to a private company, but due to some problem it was withdrawn.
A regular street food seller, Tashi, said that he has never received any complaints from his customers as he serves the best quality thukpa to them. “I maintain hygiene at the time of preparing the thukpa. Even religiously, it is not good to sell unhygienic food, it is a sin,” he said. He added that he has a designated place to sell the thukpa. He said the money from street food business is his livelihood.