Dining out is a common part in the life of Pakistanis. Karachiites and Lahories are the most outgoing people in the country. Due to lack of recreational activities in Lahore, eating out is the only leisure activity for the inhabitants of Lahore – where people could go out along with family or friends, from fine dining to the street food – they experience all kinds of meal regardless of the quality, hygienic conditions and its ingredients. The only thing that matters is its Taste. That’s it!
But not anymore!
Punjab Food Authority raids on the food outlets supervised by the most famous ‘The Dauntless Lady’ Director of Operations “Ayesha Mumtaz, they stepped in to inspect the food items, their processing, and level of hygiene of their equipment, manufacturing, storage, serving and distribution.
Punjab Food Authority (PFA) established in 2011 under the “Punjab Food Authority Act 2011”. The Punjab government promulgated this act and notified on July 2, 2011 in Lahore district only. This act included the rules of the Punjab Pure Food Rule 2011. The main idea was to hire experts with a background in food and the qualification criteria was an MSc in Food Science and Technology that deals in all kinds of food, juices, beverages, milk, meat, poultry etc. The Food Authority Amendment Ordinance, 2015 include strict punishments for producing and selling unhygienic food, making such acts cognizable and non-bail able offences.
PFA claims that they are conducting this to bring awareness in the people who do not pay attention to its hygienic condition, sanitation, cleanliness of restaurants, cafe and food factories. The PFA team has started their inspection from Lahore and mushroomed their raids towards Islamabad – where they were fining, warning and sealing those food outlets which are found to be supplying or serving unsatisfactory food items for human consumption. They are surveying all food outlets from reputable restaurants to the small food business or street dhabas.
The team of PFA includes 24 members who are specialized in food inspection comes from educational institutes such as University of Agriculture Faisalabad, University of Arid Agriculture, Rawalpindi, University of Sargodha and a university in Multan, and working day and night to make sure that healthy food is offered to the people of Lahore and sealing those food outlets with low hygienic standards.
PFA has also established E-Complaint system on their website where one can submit their complaint against the restaurants; food suppliers or any other eateries’ and the team will respond and raid on such outlets.
According to APP, the PFA has so far conducted over 6,000 raids and issued improvement notices to about 3,000 food factories and eateries – Including high-profile hotels like Avari Tower Lahore, Pearl Continental Lahore, where they found storage of left over meals, poor drainage system which is unhygienic, and a lack of employees/workers’ hand-washing arrangements there.
They also visited the bakery section and found food items of various brands labeled as hotel’s own products, without date of manufacturing and expiry.
“At PC hotel, we found jam of a famous food company and the hotel administration showed it as its own product by labeling it. There was no date of manufacturing or expiry mentioned on the label. So it is unfair and illegal to hide label of famous company product,” Ayesha Mumtaz told Dawn.
She had already warned hotel admin of stern action, but it didn’t bother. She said one side of the kitchen drainage system was also found to be faulty, causing hygiene issues. Storing the leftover meal was another issue in the kitchen, she added.
Ayesha Mumtaz said that she will revisit the hotels after couple of days to check whether they improved their arrangements or not.
Punjab Food Authority has their official Facebook page where they are exposing publically the real pictures of these eateries’ kitchen, ingredients, poor sanitation and dirty storage system. The PFA team sealed from the most famous food chains till the small Milk shops, Canteens of Schools, Hospitals, and Bakeries etc.
Moreover, a PFA team discarded 1,160 liter substandard milk after it checked a number of milk sellers/men at the city’s entry/exit points – Saggian, Thokar, Babu Sabu and Shahdara. It also sealed Punjab Bakery in Gowalmandi for selling substandard and expired food items, broken eggs etc.The team imposed heavy fine on the management of Big Man fast food outlet in Shadman for lacking proper cleanliness.They also raided the hotels in The Mall and fined Rs.75, 000 each of them.Another team in Iqbal Town sealed Hafiz Sweets while imposed heavy fine on Italian Pizza on Raiwind Road for flouting the health hygiene regulations. It also imposed fine on BFC outlet on PIA Road.
Gulberg Town’s PFA team sealed Burger Corner at Mini Market. Shalimar Town’s team imposed heavy fines on Khan Bakers (Ghoray Shah Road) and MS Food (Swami Nagar) where Aziz Bhatti PFA team imposed fine on Asian Diaries.
American food chain Fatburger, located onMM Alam Road and sealed by PFA, after that they apologized on their Facebook page on their violation and immediately dispatched their team to Lahore to check and improve their standard.
PFA also imposed heavy fine on Pizza Hut of M.M.Alam road with last warning of sealing due to presence of starch in ketchup, dirty freezer, ice-cream and meat in same freezer. Butler’s Chocolate Cafe has also been sealed and heavily fined. The cafe was shut down due to poor storage conditions, expired products, tampered expiry dates and several other unhygienic reasons.
Moreover, the field teams visited various other food points in the city and issued notices to improve their quality of services. Several shops werefined a total of Rs. 49,000. Among those finned were PC Hotel, King Edward College Canteen, Lahore Grammar School canteen, Malhar Banquet Hall and 5-Star Banquet Hall.
The Food Authority field team raided on the kinds of soda manufacturers, finned and sealed them due to the usage of poor quality of ice, rusted and dirty freezers and chillers and unsatisfactory (unhygienic) situation.
The similar type of team also been sent to other cities of Punjab including Islamabad, Faisalabad, Rawalpindi and in other districts including Peshawar where the district teams are performing such raids. In fact, the Peshawar administration has already cracked down on popular foreign food chains Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) and Pizza Hut for “selling expired food items”, while Faisalabad authorities have also intensified their crackdown.
Punjab Food Authority has issued a new grading system for restaurants and other eateries in Punjab. This system of points sets down a criteria for restaurants according to which they graded into A, B, C and D categories by which they will issue certificates to the eateries according to the categories they fall into.
Out of a total of 100 points, the A grade restaurants need to achieve 90 or above. A group to indicate the food they serve is entirely risk-free. The grading system continues down to the D grade restaurants, which must earn over 60 points rated as low risk in terms of threatened food for consumers.
This kind of gradinghas been introduced first time in Punjab to bring awareness among the consumers about the type of food they are eating and how safe and healthy it is.
The PFA team, especially Ayesha Mumtaz,has been criticized by the owners of restaurants for such kind of raids due to loss in their business.
“We have lost 80 percent of the business,” says Nadeem Ahmed the owner of Nadeem Tikka, raided by PFA
Ayesha Mumtaz and her team are continuously conducting the raids on different food outlets to ensure and provide fine quality food to the people of Punjab.Thus, the steps taken by Punjab Food Authority is highly commendable. Consumers are also praising this initiative by the Punjab Government.
The idea and the dynamic approach adopted by the authority needs to mushroom into other cities of Punjab as well so to make sure that the people are receiving quality service.