Divisive standards: Food authority unable to meet milkmen’s wishes

Milk Suppliers and Sellers Association has presented seven demands.

Our Correspondent November 06, 2014


The Punjab Food Authority (PFA) on Thursday vowed to maintain quality standards and continue its campaign against those involved in selling adulterated milk.

A PFA official speaking to The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity said the demands raised by the Milk Suppliers and Sellers Association during a protest demonstration on October 27 were baseless and went against the PFA Act.

The association had staged a protest demonstration against the authority on October 27. Association officials had alleged that the PFA had been victimising milkmen on the pretext of checking adulteration.

Provincial Assembly Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal had constituted a committee to look into the grievances of the milkmen. The committee had constituted a two-member sub-committee to resolve the issue after hearing the views of all the stakeholders in this regard.

The association had presented seven demands in a meeting of the sub-committee last week. Officials said they demanded that the authority revise (lower) open-milk standards; that shops selling substandard milk should not be sealed and that vehicles carrying milk should not be impounded over mixing water in milk. The association said the authority should only confiscate milk found mixed with formalin, detergent and urea. It said that the PFA should treat milkmen on par with packaged milk suppliers. They also demanded that food quality inspectors should provide shop proprietors and tanker owners with a sample of their produce each at the time of inspections. The association demanded the immediate release of all impounded vehicles and a raise in the price of milk. It also demanded a decrease in the licensing fee for milk shops.

PFA officials maintained that standards had been determined under the Punjab Pure Food Rules at five per cent fat and nine per cent Solid Not Fat (SNF).  They said milk was mostly contaminated with polluted water rich in arsenic, lead, mercury, aluminium, magnesium and cobalt. Officials said this made the milk unfit for consumption as it could cause several fatal diseases. They said the authority had seized vehicles under 139-B and C of the PFA Act 2011. Officials said similar treatment had been meted out to producers of substandard packaged milk including Dairy Omung, Dairy Roza and Dairy Pure. They said the authority was not in a position to release the impounded vehicles as it was beyond its ambit. Officials said the licensing fee had not been raised since its introduction.

Officials said if the authority acceded to the association’s demands there would be no reason left to check milk adulteration across the province. They said 1,959 samples of milk had been found to be contaminated out of the 3,150 collected between January and September in 2014. Officials said a progress report had found the samples contaminated with urea, formalin, detergent and polluted water.

Milk Suppliers and Sellers Association general secretary Chaudhry Jamshed said the issue had remained unresolved as the PFA had not heeded their demands. He said milk mixed with water was not adulterated as dilution was carried out due to seasonal variation of milk quantity. He said the association would strive to provide quality milk if the authority reduced the requisite standards regarding fat and SNF content.

Kisan Council Pakistan Punjab chief organiser Muhammad Ilyas Usman said milk should be provided through chillers. He said the sale of adulterated milk compromised public health and constituted a criminal offence.

PFA Director General Asad Islam Mahni said the authority had been applying scientific principles and standard international practices to regulate the provision of quality food items. He said the standard governing purity of items could be amended with a majority in the assembly. Mahni said the authority had no option but to implement the existing law. He said the milk quality standards had been solely based on merit.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 7th, 2014.

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