ISLAMABAD: In the absence of a formal food authority and with the city administrators lack of any mechanism to keep a check on milk, meat and other food items in the capital, a parliamentary panel has decided to inspect shops and restaurants itself.
The Senate Standing Committee on National Health Services Regulations and Coordination on Thursday said different departments keep on passing the buck about checking the quality of food items in the capital, but the matter cannot continue like this.
It is a sensitive matter since people are being hospitalised after consuming substandard food, they said.
The committee’s chairman Sajjad Hussain Turi said that no one can be allowed to play with the lives of citizens, as he warned of indiscriminate action against all those responsible. “The absence of a food authority is the root of the problem,” he concluded.
Discussing the proposed slaughterhouse, Turi said that it should be built forthwith so that meat, which is inspected and checked by qualified officials is distributed to the city. Moreover, there should be similar, centralized distribution centres for chicken and milk.
The committee also summoned the State Minister and secretary for Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) and the interior secretary in the next meeting of the panel to provide a briefing. The committee also decided to visit five-star hotels in the city and check the quality of food being served there.
Turi warned that should the matter remain unresolved, the committee will approach the prime minister for a solution.
Representatives of the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT), including the chief commissioner, said that the administration was continuously conducting raids at various restaurants and food outlets in the capital to check the quality of foodstuff being used and whether standards of hygiene were being maintained or not.
The chief commissioner added that they had also imposed fines and punishments on vendors and establishments. While they had formed seven teams and an online complaint cell, the commissioner said that the ICTA did not have sufficient manpower to effectively continue the checks.
Regarding the food authority, the officials said that after reviewing various suggestions from the ministry of science and technology and other ministries, the interior ministry would draft and present an act in the parliament.
The National Institute of Health told the committee that since the 2009 pandemic, Pakistan was not alone in the world in encountering influenza A/H1N1.
While the World Health Organisation (WHO) had declared an H1N1 post-pandemic phase in August 2010 with two strains- H1N1 and H3N2 – as seasonal flu viruses, there have been reports that the virus is becoming more resilient in Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, in Southern China , Hong Kong, India and Pakistan.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2018.