Most highly perishable food items on sale, like baked goods, homemade pickles and sweets do not carry a computerized manufacture date and expiration date. Therefore, it is easy to tamper with the dates and sell the items long after its expiration date.
Many food consumers in Thimphu are complaining about the misleading manufacture date and expiration date on local food products. They say they have purchased food items with valid dates, only to find out later that the food is already spoiled with molds and bad odour.
Many consumers suspect that the dates stamped on the food package is being played around by the shopkeepers who choose to sell the products even after the stipulated shelf life of the product expires.
A regular bread consumer, Karma Dorji, said that although the bread comes in a package with a fresh date of manufacture, however, he often finds molds inside the slices and with bad odour.
He said that the food producers need to provide proper food labeling with dates that meet health standards, and educate both consumers and shopkeepers on food quality and safety, whereby no sellers can play with the dates.
Karma Dorji said that there might be a need to revisit the label standards at national level, to harmonize it with international standards and to bring clarity to the various date markings.
Consumers also complained that bakeries, pickle makers and others in Thimphu send out their goods without standard manufacture and expiration dates.
There also cases of unmarked local chips showing high content of monosodium glutamate.
There have been cases of people eating all kinds of local pickles and then falling victim to food poisoning.
Packaged pickle from the neighboring regions with regional labels are also notorious for giving stomach problems even on consuming the smallest amounts.
The owner of Sky Bakery in Thimphu said that it is wise to have computerized dates on sensitive food since consuming spoiled food is harmful to health.
She said that all her foods come with computerized and sealed dates so shopkeepers cannot manipulate with it.
She added that during summer months, the maximum shelf life of bread, bread roll, etc., are only for five days, after which the manufacturers cannot guarantee the food’s nutritional level or safety.
“Sky Bakery encourages the retailers to return the products after expiration date,” said the owner of Sky Bakery.
Similarly, retailers are also of the opinion that the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority lack such knowledge, and they do not impose the regulation to have standard and uniformity in labeling the products.
As per the heath point of view, if foods are mishandled, food borne bacteria can grow and the presence of pathogens in foods cause not only food borne illness, but can also cause serious illness, such as food poisoning. It also causes other physical discomfort, such as an upset stomach, gas and bloating. In addition eating expired food is often less nutritious than eating food when it is fresh.
The date stamped on a food product package helps at the point of sale to determine how long the product should be displayed for sale. It can also assist the purchaser to know the time limit to purchase or use the product at its best quality and nutritional value.