Why there is a dire need for Sindh Food Authority

Published: August 29, 2015
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PFA seals factories, restaurants and eateries across city. PHOTO: PFA

My father has always taught us the importance of the three ‘H’ in our lives. These are health, happiness and humanism — health, being right on top of this list. But sadly, not enough attention has been paid to this particular ‘H’ in our country. If we look at the state of our public hospitals and healthcare generally, it’s a gloomy image.

We can’t blame the government for every wrong that is happening in our country. We ourselves don’t pay enough attention to the quality of food we eat or the hygiene levels of the restaurants we eat at.  As long as the dish looks appetising and tastes good, we are pretty content. Sadly, we don’t think twice about all the possible ways that it could deteriorate our health. For instance, if the food isn’t cooked appropriately or if it hasn’t been cleaned properly, it could be fatal for its consumers. For instance, 13-year-old Kinza died after consuming a burger from a well-renowned bakery in North Nazimabad.

On the other hand, when I was living in Canada (having spent a great deal of my life working at a restaurant to make some pocket money of my own), I observed that most restaurants in Canada strictly adhered to the food authority regulations. They are aware of the fact that food inspectors can show up any day, at any time to check the working conditions and sanitation standards of the restaurant – investing a lot of time, money and energy in maintaining kitchens and restrooms. In fact, there are checks to be made by designated staff members after every 10 minutes to ensure that everything is in order. Special shoes are also to be worn by the kitchen staff along with suitable white coats, hats and special hair covers while working with food. Boxes of disposable gloves are placed at every corner of the kitchen; food is never to be touched with bare hands.

Most restaurants in Pakistan do not take even basic precautions; for instance, cooks do not wear cooking hats to prevent their hair from falling into the food at any possible stage. Gloves should be fully utilised and worn when the cook is in contact with the food. The kitchen should be spick and span and the shoes that are worn outdoors should not be permitted inside the kitchen. This will prevent all the possible dirt and bacteria from entering the area where food is prepped. These are only some basic precautions that should be looked into but sadly aren’t.

Health has rarely been prioritised in Pakistan but we can most definitely see a change in one of the provinces; Punjab.  Punjab Food Authority (PFA) was set up in 2012 and has been doing a prodigious job at regulating all the eateries in the province. The team shows up unexpectedly at eateries and inspects them. The idea behind the effort is to assess basic health standards, the environment the food is cooked in, as well as the ingredients used in cooking the food are all harmless and fresh.

This strategy has been tried and tested and seems to have worked in one province, then why not the rest? PFA has done a tremendous job at sealing all the restaurants and eateries that were not following specific and particular health standards. There were eateries, significantly famous ones that were using stale vegetables, breads and extremely unhygienic kitchen conditions, which were forced to shut down to everyone’s relief.  Of course the gory images on social media all made us question whether to ever eat out again or not!

PFA has also introduced a grading system which will tell the customers where a particular eatery stands in managing health standards. This will either make an eatery gain popularity or lose out on its reputation on the whole. The eateries are being asked to display these grades on their entrances. This is a very common practice abroad and I am glad that they have adopted it here in Pakistan.

The truth is, if a food item is expired, the esteemed restaurant management shouldn’t wait to dispose it off; it’s their duty to immediately get rid of it. Restaurants tend to ignore such rules and regulations, but negligence can’t be afforded because people’s lives are at stake. The list of all the restaurants that have been sealed by the PFA is long, most of which have been shut down on account of expired food and kitchen conditions.

We must put pressure and get something similar to PFA in Sindh to ensure food safety in Sindh also – especially since similar restaurants and branches of eateries of Punjab exist in Sindh as well, where similar food practices may persist. Necessary steps have to be taken by Sindh authorities in order to ensure health standards and it has an ideal model to follow – the PFA.

Nashmia Butt

Nashmia Butt

The writer has done her undergraduate in Political Science from the University of Toronto. She is a subeditor for the Opinions & Editorial section of The Express Tribune. She tweets as @NashmiaAmirButt

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Motiwala

    What the blogger wrote here is exactly the way it is done and should be
    done. The exception being shoes. No employee, either in Canada or US
    or Europe will invest in TWO pairs of shoes. One for outside, street wear,
    one for the kitchen. If it is a restaurant, the floors are swept and mopped,
    diligently at periodic intervals, throughout the business day. No dirt or
    or debris is allowed to accumulate or should be allowed to accumulate.Recommend

  • Zaid

    As a germophobe (yes that’s what I mean, spell-check, not homophobe), I wholeheartedly agree with you. The question is, how does one put pressure on the lackadaisical Sindh government?Recommend

  • S malik

    Unfortunately… Sindh Food authority is suffering from what is known as “Syed Qaim Ali Shah Syndrome”
    Its a rare condition where one is stuck in a stationary state of limbo & has been there for so long that one remains Good for nothing .Recommend

  • https://shafiqhaidervirk.wordpress.com/ Muhammad Shafiq Haider

    A very informative and thought provoking blog, especially, for the insights from abroad.

    I agree with you that PFA has done a commendable job. But I also have a point to highlight. Talking of implementing a public policy of food standards, the policy objective is not to seal businesses and punish them with unemployment but to enable and assist businesses to comply to standards and sell hygienic and healthy food. When a business is sealed, it is welfare eroding for the businessman as well as the consumer. If authorities keep sealing businesses on an expanded scale, the remaining would find incentive for rent seeking (to charge unjustified higher prices having standard compliant status).

    The best thing to do is to formulate and implement smart regulation such as grading restaurants and display of those grades, as suggested in your blog. The consumer can pick and choose according to their purchasing power and businesses would always find an incentive into improving their grade by investing into raising standards compliance.Recommend

  • BP

    Who will pay for all this Cinderella rules and regulations? And sealing
    and grading restaurants? Did you have your feet firmly planted on the
    ground when you wrote this..?….. Hmm….debatable.
    See, Sindh has been looted clean, the jackals and hyenas are picking
    the bones, the vultures are next. Waiting to get their turn on the carcass.
    With world renowned corruption in Sindh, in PPP, in bureaucrats, in pen
    pushers, if you get a grade F,..you just pay bhatta, and you will be back
    in business next day. If they seal you off, You pay bhatta to Qaim Shah
    or Sharjeel Memon, you will be back in business next day. There are 3400
    ‘Ghost Schools’ in Sindh !. For heavens sake! Fully staffed. All staff salaries
    go to off shore accounts of the ruling political party….and you are worried
    about restaurants? Pick a better cause,…like Senior citizens standing 5
    hours in line to get their pensions Or some seniors have nothing to fall
    back on. They die in the streets. Abandoned by everyone.Recommend

  • NB

    There are a million other causes too. We need to start somewhere. If we sit and keep pushing them all away because we personally feel something else is more important. We wont get anywhere. So, this is a start.Recommend

  • BP

    True. Well said. Seems like there are different priorities
    then.Recommend

  • talha usmani

    In Sindh it is unimaginable that something productive like this can take place. Until and unless a meteor hits the planet and the face of whole pppp is wiped off the face of earth.Recommend