For a city that hosts a population of 3.5 million, there are only four food inspectors. In the summer months, there is an increased risk of infectious diseases caused by consuming unhygienic food items and drinks, but there is little check on their sale.
Sahazad Rafiq, who had stocked rotten canned food, substandard beverages and candies on his pushcart in Tench Bhatta claimed they were quality food items. He was selling a one-and-half litre of fake Coca Cola for Rs45, whereas the original brand sells for Rs85. He said he had never been fined since he started the business several years ago.
Sub-standard drinks, expired sweets, jams, canned food, squashes, sandwiches, bread and snacks are being openly sold in shops and on pushcarts. Shafqat Ahmed, a bakery owner in Dhoke Syedan said a food inspector visits the market once in three months. “But the occasional visit isn’t enough to check adulteration in the locality. It’s just a formality that the food inspectors undertake to satisfy their officers,” he added.
Zafar Hanif, owner of a general store in Hazara Colony, said he purchases items from a wholesaler who delivers them to the locality. There is no one to spot check; I’ve never met any food inspector in the locality, he added.
Vendors of adulterated food and drinks are doing a roaring business in poor localities in Rawalpindi like Pirwadhai, Pindora, Dhoke Syedan, Girja Road, Dhoke Syedan, Railway Station, Dhoke Hassu, Tench Bhatta, Bakra Mandi, Hazara Colony, RA Bazaar, Fawara Chowk, Raja Bazaar, Bohar Bazaar, College Road, Liaquat Bagh, Committee Chowk and People’s Colony.
Rawalpindi District Health Officer Khalid Randhawa accepted that unhygienic food items were being sold in the city but he didn’t know the number of complaints typically registered in a month or year.
He said the department has eight to nine food inspectors for Rawalpindi division, out of which four food inspectors are reserved for the garrison city. “They visit the areas under their control after two or three months.” However, in case of a complaint, our inspectors conduct raids and take action against violators, he claimed.
The cantonment board has its own monitoring system in place for areas under its jurisdiction.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 20th, 2013.
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