KARACHI: In Pakistan, gastronomic luxury comes with a hidden cost. Some 70 per cent of the food available in the market is contaminated and 52 per cent of mineral water available is unsafe for drinking. Most food producers continue to use substandard raw materials such as unhygienic water and inferior food colours, flavours, fats and oils because there is weak implementation of laws and a virtually non-existent incorporated legal structure for food safety. The contamination, however, is not just limited to ingredients. In most cases, persons preparing the food are not wearing gloves and hairnets, and the food is prepared in dirty kitchens infested with pests. Often, the food is spoiled not because of substandard ingredients, but by an unhygienic handler who is sweating abundantly in a poorly ventilated kitchen while adding chilies to the gravy. A lot of cases have been seen about deaths because of the consumption of unfit meal.
Victims of food poisoning notice symptoms after hours, sometimes days. In extreme instances, stomachaches and cramping lead to bloody diarrhea, kidneys shutting down and seizures and the worst-case scenario is ‘death by food’. Losing valuable existence to an illness as needless as food poisoning is adverse. With increased globalisation of the food chain and no integrated safety system in place in the country, the major burden of preventing food poisoning falls on consumers.
Along with health hazards, selling poor quality of food at high prices, collectively is a crime. It does not only add to consumer crime that frails our economy but also shows how weak our ethical values are and how profits are more valuable than lives and health of individuals who consume these food items.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 21st, 2016.