Nepal may be a small country and it may be undergoing some political turmoil at present but the governance does not seem to be affected as reflected by the recent action proposed by the government there to institutionalize a scientifically designed vigilance system for the catering sector for ensuring consumer safety. As this country is known for its many tourist attractions with millions visiting every year, it is important that their safety is not compromised by foods served in thousands of restaurants providing catering service. According to the new initiative proposed, the health authorities there would grade restaurants into three categories identified by different colored cards that are to be exhibited prominently for consumer attention. This is indeed a welcome proposal and if implemented efficiently will assure the visitors about the safety of foods served to them.
"Highway hotels and restaurants will get blue, yellow and red cards based on quality of foods they serve and hygienic environment. "Department of Commerce is finalising a directive to classify highway hotels in good (blue), satisfactory (yellow) and bad (red) categories from next fiscal year based on food quality, environment and price," director general of the department Anil Kumar Thakur. "The cards have to be publicly displayed at the front desk." The neat-and-clean hotels and restaurants serving fresh foods in reasonable price will get blue card. Similarly, hotels and restaurants willing to develop food quality and dining environment will get yellow card, and the worst will get red card. "We will give six months to improve hotels and restaurants' environment and the card has to be renewed every year," he said, adding that the department is planning to examine food quality at least twice a year and the card can cancelled at any time, if the food quality found not satisfactory. "We have to set up specific criterion before issuing the cards," he said, adding that the department will be distributing cards from August".
While on paper the scheme looks excellent, the way it is going to be enforced will decide about its impact. It is a fact that many developing countries like Nepal have noble intentions and appropriate laws for the protection of their citizens but laxity in enforcement due to many logical constraints is their "Achilles heel". Probably the new proposal, with restricted focus on high way restaurants may still work as the resources required can be marshaled if the intention is serious. Another constraint could be insufficient infrastructure which is needed to determine food quality, like analytic laboratories equipped with technically qualified personnel and modern technology for quality assessment. One can wish Nepal success in its new safety initiatives.V.H.POTTY