It’s been more than two months since the Punjab Food Authority became functional in Lahore but it is still operating without a laboratory of its own, The Express Tribune has learnt.
The authority was set up under an Act passed in 2011 and took over the monitoring functions of the District Food Department. It monitors the manufacturing, distribution, storage, sale and import of food.
The food authority has been functioning with nine food safety officers.
Muhammad Asad Mahani, the PFA director general, told The Express Tribune that the Punjab government had allocated funds worth Rs700 million to hire new officers and build modern labs. He, however, added that it would save the authority a lot of money if it was given control of the city government lab, which was used by the District Food Department.
Since July, food safety officers have collected 300 food samples of milk, cooking oil, desi ghee, red chilli, coriander, bottles and ketchup. The samples were sent to the City District Food Laboratory (CDFL), which initially refused to take the samples. However, after the district coordination officer intervened the lab agreed to accept the samples. Since then, they have been lying at the lab, untested.
Deputy Public Analyst Shahid Mehmood confirmed that around 300 samples had been submitted to the City District Food Laboratory. He said the samples could not be tested because the food authority had yet to decide terms of reference with the city district government. Until the lab is sent an official notification by the DCO’s office, the samples cannot be analysed, Mehmood told The Tribune.
He did not rule out the possibility of the samples going bad if kept for a long time but reiterated they could not go ahead with the tests until the legalities were sorted out.
The DCO was unavailable for comment.
Tariq Zaman, staff officer to the DCO, too, was unable to give a time frame for the transfer of the lab to the food authority.
Mahani told The Express Tribune that the matter would be resolved with the city district government “in a few days”. The importance of a lab is undeniable, said Mahani, but since the transfer is being delayed because of legal complications the authority does not have any options.
He said the lack of a lab was not a major concern right now since the food safety officers were currently focusing on checking spoilt food and hygiene.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 18th, 2012.