Having felt the need to implement the food control policies and strategies using its inspectorate and laboratory facilities, the Bhutan Agriculture and Food Regulatory Authority (BAFRA) brought together stakeholders involved in food business and handling in a day-long National Stakeholder Workshop on Food Standards in Thimphu.
The Food Act of Bhutan, endorsed and adopted back in 2005 requires BAFRA to review international and regional food standards, collect and analyze data for elaborating national food standards, and establish standards for food of all types in the country, ensuring that such standards are practicable in the local environment.
Further the act specifies that BAFRA shall also draft standards, rules and regulations, orders, and notices under this Act, as well as amendments which are done basically to formulate food standards for the country and discuss on procedures for standards development.
The Secretary of Ministry of Agriculture and Forests (MoAF), Dasho Sherub Gyaltshen said developing and defining food standards in Bhutan is very important and timely. “For a sovereign nation, we should have our own food standards,” he said.
He told the participants to formulate food standards in compliance with the international norms such as Codex. He advised that they should look into how they can “Bhutanize” the food standards.
The Executive Director of BAFRA, Karma Dorji said it is important to have sound food standards in order to ensure public safety from the consumption of unsafe foods. He said that the authority has the obligation to harmonize food standards in the country in-sync with international norms. However, he said “strengthening food standards is challenging”.
The food industries, food based business and handlers were called to bring all food stakeholders on a common discussion table where BAFRA could consult and seek their feedbacks and comment on proposed standard formulation system and procedures for standards development.
FAO consultant Raj Rajasekar a resource person for the workshop while explaining the Codex and its role in international food standards development said that issues of food standards is today the main agenda in many countries around the world.
“Food safety is a common denominator, everyone has the right to safe foods,” he said.
Codex standards is the bench mark for development of the food standards in the world, and Codex provides tools for national food standards.
Following the inaugural session, the presentations of draft standards was made. The participants in the later part of the day discussed in groups on draft standards and proposed standards formulation system. Accordingly the groups provided many feedbacks and comments on the draft food standards where the feedbacks and comments received would be reviewed and incorporated ensuring the issues and concerns of the food industries. Food business and handlers are included.
The BAFRA was established in 2000 to promote the quality and safety of goods and products related to MoAF. It also coordinates and liaises with other national, regional and international agencies that are related to regulation of quality and safety of agriculture products including foods.