ISLAMABAD: The absence of a formal body or a mechanism to keep a check on the sale of substandard meat and other edible items in the capital perturbed lawmakers who called for setting up a food authority in the city.
The Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services Regulations and Coordination met in the capital on Tuesday with Senator Sajjad Toori in the chair.
Senators expressed their concern over the quality of food items being sold in the capital, noting that meat being sold in most of the markets was of substandard quality and was not checked by food officials.
Officials of Islamabad Capital Territory Administration (ICTA) explained that their teams have been deputed at all the entry points to the capital to examine the meat and milk being brought into the city. They added that these goods are only allowed to proceed towards the markets once they have been examined.
ICTA officials, though, conceded that there was no food authority in the capital to keep a check on the food items nor is there a proper system to identify animal meat. “Just by looking at it, we cannot tell to which animal does the meant belong,” said ICTA Health Assistant Director Dr Najeeb Durrani in a nod to reports of donkey and dog meat being offered as cow or goat meat in other parts of the country.
“Maybe some animal husbandry experts could identify [to which species does the meat belong to] on the basis of the anatomical structure of bones,” he suggested.
“But if the meat is boneless, they have no mechanism to differentiate between the meat of cows and meat of donkeys,” Dr Durrani suggested.
A senior official from the National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC) told lawmakers that they have specially trained veterinarians at their Lahore institute who could inspect corpses or a large piece of the body, review the limb’s anatomy and determine which animal did it belong to.
Senator Kalsoom Parveen expanded on the issue of substandard foodstuff being sold in the capital, noting that the vegetables and drinks being sold in the city were also of poor quality.
“Even the fish in the Rawal Dam are unfit for human consumption.”
Senator Toori remarked that the only solution to these problems was to establish a formal food authority in the capital.
On this, the committee was told that the food act enacted in 1960 had yet to be implemented in the capital while an amendment in the food act has been pending with the law ministry since 2015.
The apex drug regulator in the country came under fire for ignoring directives issued by the committee.
Observing that the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan (DRAP) was not fulfilling its responsibilities properly, Senator Toori sought a detailed report regarding prices of stents in the country and on why the regulator had failed to implement the committee’s directions.
Senator Nauman Wazir said that the prices of stents were much lower in India when compared to Pakistan, where they have skyrocketed.
Explaining why the barcoding move had yet to be implemented, DRAP CEO Dr Aslam Afghani said that several pharmaceutical companies had got stay-orders from courts on the codes.
Asked about the delays in building a slaughterhouse in the capital, officials of the Capital Development Authority (CDA) said that they do not have requisite funds to build the centre. The committee members recommended that the abattoir should be built in Sector I-11 within three months where land for the project has already been allotted.
Smoking and drugs
Lawmakers were furious over the rise in the use of drugs at educational institutions — particularly crystal methamphetamine also known as ICE on the streets.
They added that hospitals in the city have been getting more and more ICE users. Senator Toori noted that while cigarette cabins set up near educational institutions in Sector H-11 were removed on the directions of the committee, they have popped up again.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 17th, 2018.