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KARACHI: Director Operations, Sindh Food Authority (SFA), Abrar Ahmed Sheikh has urged the owners of all eateries, restaurants, bakeries and other food-related businesses to improve the hygienic conditions in their business premises and provide safe and healthy food to the public otherwise strict action will continue to take place and no compromise will be made over the quality and hygienic conditions.

Speaking at a meeting during his visit to the Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI), Abrar Sheikh said, “It is impossible that the eatery owners are not aware of the shortcomings. They know what exactly is going wrong and they simply cannot deny it yet they ignore it, do not take remedial measures and continue to play with lives of the masses by providing unhygienic and hazardous food which cannot be tolerated.”

President KCCI Junaid Esmail Makda, Senior Vice President Khurram Shahzad, Vice President Asif Sheikh Javaid, Former President AQ Khalil, Former Vice President Agha Shahab Ahmed Khan, Chairman All Pakistan Restaurants Association Shaukat Ali Omerson, Managing Committee members and a large number of businessmen associated with food-related businesses also attended the meeting.

Director Operations SFA further stated that SFA works under a transparent mechanism in which the working parameters for food technologists and food safety officers have been defined in such a manner that leave absolutely no room for any kind of under the table deal therefore, all businessmen associated with food businesses should stop thinking about bribing the officers and must rectify their shortcomings, improve the hygienic conditions and provide healthy food to the masses otherwise they will be taken to task by the Authority.

He explained that SFA never seals any business premises immediately after identifying hygiene and food quality related shortcomings as the authority initially issues an improvement notice and also raises awareness about the hygiene and food quality requirements, which is followed by a warning notice and penalty if the eatery owners fail to improve. Subsequently, if the eatery owners continue to avoid taking corrective steps even after the imposition of penalty and warning notice, it leaves no other option for SFA but to seal theu business premises under Section 45 of CrPC that results in temporary suspension of commercial activities until all the SFA requirements are complied.

Referring to President KCCI’s remarks, Director SFA said, “We also want to promote the ease of doing business but no compromise will be made over the food quality and hygienic conditions. It is high time to change which has become inevitable now. We firmly believe in consultation rather than taking decisions in isolation, which is the basic reason why SFA carries out awareness drives prior to issuing any warning notice or imposing penalty.”

He further informed that work was in progress at SFA for setting up a world-class state-of-the-art laboratory where the facility to carry out all forms of tests and verifications will be available which will be acceptable globally. Vegetables being cultivated by using the sewage water cannot be tolerated which was a very serious issue therefore, the SFA has decided to initiate a massive drive in which all such productions will be completely bulldozed and strategies will be devised to make that no sewage water is used in future for cultivation of vegetables, he added.

Seeking KCCI’s support to SFA, he stressed that both institutions will have to work collectively to create a healthier society. “We need KCCI’s support otherwise we cannot move forward”, he added.

Speaking on the occasion, President KCCI Junaid Esmail Makda stated that the Karachi Chamber has been successfully playing the role of bridge between the business community and SFA therefore, any grievance being faced by businessmen be brought to Chamber’s notice u that the issue could be amicably resolved. “The authorities at Sindh Food Authority must also work closely with KCCI and carry out all its operation in consultation with KCCI in order to create an enabling business environment”, he added.

He was of the opinion that prior to taken any action, SFA must hold frequent awareness sessions and make people aware of the required hygienic conditions and food quality as it takes many years to build a brand name which is destroyed within minutes as it has been observed that all the activities being carried out by SFA were being widely broadcasted in the media.

He also underscored the need to adopt uniform policies by all the food authorities across Pakistan as it has been observed that these policies vary in Sindh, Punjab and KPK, creating a confusing situation for businessmen.

Referring to SFA operation largely confined to Karachi only, he said that the department should expand its operations to other cities of Sindh as well where hundreds of people were suffering terribly due to unhygienic and low-quality food stuff.

Highlighting some facts mentioned in World Health Organization (WHO) report, he said that it was a matter of grave concern that one in 10 people suffer from a foodborne illness every year. More worryingly, 420,000 people around the world die each year from such illnesses, including 125,000 children, who are more at risk. Unsafe food containing harmful bacteria, viruses, parasites or chemical substances, causes more than 200 diseases – ranging from diarrhea to cancer. Diarrheal diseases are the most common illnesses resulting from the consumption of contaminated food, causing 550 million people to fall ill and 230,000 deaths every year. Access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food is key to sustaining life and promoting good health, he stressed.

He also emphasised the need to raise awareness about fortification of flour, ghee and oil amongst the masses particularly millers, traders, retailers and wholesalers as millions of people mostly women and children across the country were suffering terribly due to severe malnutrition.

Referring to Prime Minister’s first speech to the nation, Junaid Makda said that Prime Minister Imran Khan quoted a report of the UNDP which reads that Pakistan is amongst the top five countries in the world where children die because of malnutrition. “It is really unfortunate that 45 percent of Pakistani children, that is, almost every other child, suffer from this disease”, he added.