The Punjab Food Authority (PFA) is providing an excellent service to the people of Lahore by cracking down on restaurants serving unhygienic food or preparing it on premises inhabited by flies, cockroaches and rats. Already, as the PFA continues its drive, scores of restaurants have been fined, others warned and at least half a dozen sealed. Now, the K-P government, too, has climbed aboard the bandwagon. The Peshawar district administration plans to introduce standard operating procedures, a series of guidelines for eateries and any businesses selling food, that will aim to maintain standards of hygiene. The health hazards of serving unhygenic food to the public are very grave ones. Doctors in major cities have been complaining about a sudden spike in gastroenteritis cases over the summer months, much of it caused by the consumption of unclean food or water. In recent months, apart from the well-publicised actions of the PFA, there have been raids on eateries in Peshawar as well, with health inspectors collecting samples of food items and carrying out laboratory tests on these. The sealing of a restaurant or a hotel depends upon whether the samples test positive for contamination.
In the past, there have been horrendous stories of people dying after consuming food from bakeries or restaurants. Not too long ago, a child in Karachi died after eating a burger from a bakery. Roadside vendors are another source of unsafe food. All provincial and local governments need to crack down against such eateries. It is worth noting, however, that during the PFA drive, it was discovered that small eateries are not alone in preparing food in unsafe conditions. Some of the restaurants in the five-star hotels of Lahore are equally guilty of this and have been issued warnings. It is excellent that this matter has been taken up with such purpose. Also welcome is the fact that both the PFA and the Peshawar district administration are providing details of their respective crackdowns on social media — a useful way to spread awareness on the issue and at the same time give a warning to eateries. There is a need for other parts of the country to follow suit. Eateries all over Pakistan need to be pressured into maintaining standards, as there could be serious consequences if they fail to do so.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 11th, 2015.