A number of department stores in the Kathmandu Valley have been found selling expired food products by posting confusing notices.
The Department of Commerce and Supply Management (DoCSM) recently moved against Big Mart at Jhamsikhel for displaying unsafe pre-packaged meat with a notice saying “Not Fit for Sale: Buy at Your Own Risk”.
According to the DoCSM, it also seized a large quantity of the pre-packaged meat. Such notices could confuse customers who might consume the unsafe products at great risk to their health, said the department.
Giri Raj Pokharel, a monitoring official at the department, said they found the mart selling the expired meat products two and a half months ago. As per the department, the law prohibits the sale of unsafe products under any circumstances. The DoCSM said it had summoned the mart owner to provide a clarification along with the relevant documents. “However, the proprietor has been a no-show and he has not been responding to the department’s calls,” said Pokharel. The department sent him another letter on Thursday.
Big Mart, promoted by the Mega Mart Group, is one of the popular grocery stores in the valley. It maintains outlets in various locations including City Centre, Kamal Pokhari, Lazimpat and Shantinagar in Kathmandu and Jhamsikhel in Lalitpur.
Pokharel said they had repeatedly sent letters to the store owner for clarification. “However, the proprietor has not appeared saying he was out of the country.”
Big Mart defended itself saying that it had been preparing to dispose the expired products when the department seized them. Antim Ranjit, marketing manager of the store, said they were in the process of dumping the expired products that remained unsold in the aftermath of the April 25 earthquake.
“We only displayed the expired food products because some of our foreign customers said they would like to buy them for their pet animals,” Ranjit said.
This is not the first instance of shopkeepers involved in business malpractices ignoring the directives of the regulatory body. Recently, the DoCSM sealed Siddhipur Store and Sampada Grocery in Siddhipur of Lalitpur district after they were found flouting the instructions given by the department.
Consumer rights activists have blamed the apathy of the department for the growing instances of malpractices by traders. “The department’s inability to launch an effective campaign for consumer awareness and take action against such offending traders have given rise to the situation,” said Madhav Timilsina, president of the Consumers’ Right Investigation Forum.
However, the DoCSM has reasserted its commitment to take action against delinquent merchants. DoCSM Director General Shambhu Koirala said they would initiate stern action against the traders who ignore the department’s directives.
“We will tell the police to arrest Big Mart’s proprietor if he does not appear at the department to give a clarification this time,” Koirala said.