PESHAWAR: Four years after it had passed the law for it, the provincial government on Monday finally launched the Food Safety and Halal Food Authority (FS&HFA) to regulate food items and eateries in the province.
Riaz Khan Mehsud, the director general for the authority, inaugurated the food body at its newly constructed offices in the Civil Secretariat on Monday. He vowed that the FS&HFA will ensure that standards devised for foodstuff are implemented while food manufacturing, storage, distribution, sale and import in the province are regulated — as per the mandate of the body.
The Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) government had passed the bill for setting up the authority in March 2014. The body had been initially set up at the divisional level and will later be expended to the district level.
Mehsud added that after the Punjab government, K-P was the second province to have set up such a body. He went on to say that with the body becoming functional, other departments such as health, the district administration and livestock will stop dealing in food safety.
The government has built a new building to house the offices of the authority in Peshawar so that it could operate as the directorate general of the authority. Mehsud, however, added that at the moment, they were setting up offices in seven divisions of the province, with each office headed by a deputy director, so that the body could eventually expand its offices to all districts of K-P.
Asked about how the body will work, Mehsud explained that all hotels and restaurants will have to register themselves with the body, for which they have devised an online system which can either be accessed directly on their website or through their Android application to secure licenses. The licence, he added, can also be obtained by visiting the FS&HFA office or through visiting field teams.
Dilating on the mandate of the authority, he said that they will formulate standards, procedures, processes and guidelines relating to food and specify appropriate enforcement systems.
“We have hired a qualified and expert team of food scientists,” Mehsud disclosed, adding that they were currently in the process of working with the Livestock Department to utilise their 14 mobile and stationary milk testing labs.
Asked why there was a need to co-opt the Livestock Department’s laboratory, he said that the authority has three types of laboratories: scientific, appellate and medical laboratory.
Moreover, they have field teams who are authorised to conduct on-the-spot medical tests for food handlers at production units, food outlets and kitchens.
Apart from enforcing the regulation, Mehsud said that the food authority will also organise training programmes on food safety and standards for business operators and food handlers. The training school will then provide certificates to participants on SOPs of food handling.
Talking about the enforcement strategy, he said that they will involve serving improvement notices to all business operators who will be time-bound to improve their businesses practices according to the specified standards and licence requirements.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2018.