KARACHI: Special Assistant to Sindh Chief Minister on Information Science and Technology Dr Sikandar Ali Shoro said on Sunday that the provincial government gave paramount importance to public safety and health issues, as evidenced by the establishment of the Sindh Food Authority and the enforcement of the Consumers Protection Act in the province.
He was speaking as the chief guest at the 10th “consumers’ food safety and quality conference” being organised by the Consumers Association of Pakistan (CAP) with collaboration from Malaysian Palm Oil Board, Pakistan Standard Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) and Sindh government.
Dr Shoro said that the task of ensuring the availability of quality and hygienic food was huge and complicated and a task of utmost importance. He said that the Sindh government was gradually working towards achieving this goal, adding that it was reviewing international laws and practices for food quality control with an aim to implement them in Pakistan. He said rules and regulations for the purpose will soon be rolled out and implemented in the province.
He further said that the awareness of the need for food quality and safety was important not only for authorities but also for the producers and consumers of food items. He said that the two stakeholders’ cooperation will ultimately bode well for the welfare and safety of the whole society.
He said that food safety was a worldwide issue affecting hundreds of millions of people, adding that the World Health Organisation (WHO) had termed food contamination as “one of the most widespread health problems and an important cause of reduced economic productivity”.
Also speaking on the occasion, CAP Chairman Kaukab Iqbal urged for the implementation of strict regulatory measures as well as a frequent inspection of food processing plants and farms by authorities to protect public from consuming unhygienic food.
He added that although the implementation of legislative measures was a government prerogative, the consumers also had a major role to play in the legislative process.
He urged the Sindh government to establish a Sindh Food Authority (SFA) as well as consumer courts to ensure consumers’ rights.
He said that the quality and safety of food needed to be ensured throughout the food production, processing, storage and distribution processes. Thus, he said, it was essential upon all stakeholders – producers, traders, industry and government agencies – to ensure that the food reaching public was safe and suitable for human health.
Moreover, the importance of the involvement of the scientific community in the whole process could not be exaggerated, the CAP chief added, saying that the aims and objectives of food control could be achieved with a well-planned national food control strategy developed with the support of all stakeholders.
He said that the urgent need for high quality and safe food supply throughout Asia, and especially in Pakistan, had created a big opportunity for small to medium-sized food businesses to flourish their businesses.
In his turn, PSQCA Director General Khalid Siddiqui called the conference “a step in the right direction” and emphasised the need to make people aware of the need for standardization.
He said that PSQCA was the only national standard body and was fully aware of the substandard counterfeit products made supplied in the country.
“I assure you that PSQCA will not let counterfeiters go free or unchecked in Pakistan,” he said.
He said that PSQCA had decided to impose a ban on the sale of open oil and ghee in the county and notices in this connection were being published in newspapers. Production of ghee and oil should be ensured as per the standards set by PSQCA while violators would be dealt with in accordance with the law, he said.
He disclosed that as per rough estimates, about 400 tonnes of substandard open oil and ghee was being sold in Karachi on a daily basis, putting the citizens’ lives at high risk.
Highlighting the significance of standardization, Khalid said that standards were becoming a pillar of the new global trade system. In today’s increasingly globalised trading environment, international standards are powerful tools to effect positive changes for spurring economic growth, adapting to climate change and opening up global markets.