PFA striving for ensuring quality food for the public

FAISALABAD: The Punjab Food Authority (PFA) has opened new avenues for processing and packaging businesses by clamping down on the sale of loose eatables including spices, pulses, oil and other essentials, said PFA Director General Noorul Amin Mangal.

Speaking to members of the Faisalabad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (FCCI), he said substandard and adulterated food items had increased health care costs for the provincial government with the medical bill for needy segments of  society exceeding Rs300 billion.

“It is due to the adulteration in food items that even young people are falling prey to heart diseases,” Mangal commented.

He said 90% of diseases were directly caused by the adulterated food and amongst these the most common was malnutrition in women and children. “Stunted growth has also been identified as a major cause of malnutrition.”

Mangal emphasisied that PFA had taken proactive steps to encourage the sale of fortified flour, oil and salt to overcome malnutrition. PFA intended to re-organise the food industry on well-defined scientific lines by strictly adhering to the globally recognised standards, he clarified.

“PFA has forced manufacturers of margarine, so-called energy drinks and frozen desserts to clearly print on wrappers that these are not milk, fruit juices, cheese, ice cream or butter,” he said.

“This step will discourage the import of unhealthy food items and support our own livestock and agricultural sector to capture the domestic food market in addition to paving the way for export of original products.”

He announced that the sale of open milk would be banned which would help to promote the packaged food industry. Similarly, a Punjab-wide association of big cattle farmers will be encouraged to protect their fundamental business interests.

He voiced hope that the steps taken by PFA would bring a qualitative improvement in the health of the young generation, which would also ease the burden on public sector hospitals.

Responding to a question, he revealed that the process of issuing food licences would be outsourced and in that connection, the first batch of 120 food licence consultants would qualify on December 30, 2017.

“We have also recruited 125 interns for the second batch who will provide consultancy services for food industries throughout Pakistan,” he added.

FCCI President Shabbir Hussain Chawla appreciated the steps taken by PFA and demanded that the chamber be given due representation in the newly created Punjab Food Board.

He said PFA should also prepare comprehensive standard operating procedures for food safety which should be publicised widely for awareness of the quarters concerned.

He called for setting up food testing labs at the tehsil level for the expeditious testing of food samples in addition to mobile testing facilities.

As most of the eatables are currently sold by cart-driven vendors, standard operating procedures should also be chalked out for them so that they could be regulated in the sale of pure food items, he said.

Meanwhile, The Punjab Food Authority (PFA) has sealed two food points, imposed fine on two others and issued warning notices to 21 other food points on poor cleanliness and unhygienic food items here on Friday.

A team of the food watchdog, under the supervision of Director Operation South Capt (retd) Muhammad Saeed Leghari raided at Rafique Bakery situated at Peoples Colony and a Sohan Halwa shop at Kot Rabnawaz to check cleanliness and quality of food items being prepared in these food points. The teams found poor cleanliness arrangements and substandard material in these food points. The team sealed both food points.

The food department team imposed fine Rs50,000 on ‘Eat InFood’ point at Gulgasht Colony and Rs150,000 in Nihao restaurant situated at Gulgasht Colony over poor cleanliness and sub-standard food items.

The teams also issued warning notices to 21 other food points to improve quality of food items and cleanliness, otherwise strict legal action would be taken against them.

Meanwhile, the district administration imposed fine Rs261,900 on 270 shopkeepers involved in profiteering during the month of September.