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What's on my plate?

Updated Oct 23, 2015 04:19pm

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Owing to unhygienic conditions, the district administration sealed off Serena Hotel’s kitchen, bakery and food storage area
Owing to unhygienic conditions, the district administration sealed off Serena Hotel’s kitchen, bakery and food storage area

Food safety and regulation is regularly overlooked in Pakistan. Oftentimes, the experience of eating trumps the need for awareness of what goes into the food we consume on a daily basis. But this seems to have changed in the recent months, as many eateries in Lahore were found serving unhygienic food and were shutdown by the Punjab Food Authority (PFA). Here, the Herald traces the history of food safety and regulation.

1862

Charles M Wetherill, a chemist, is appointed to the Bureau of Chemistry under the United States Department of Agriculture. His investigations into the adulteration of agricultural commodities eventually lead to the formation of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1930.

1906

The Pure Food and Drug Act is passed in the US by Congress. The act’s jurisdiction includes the prohibition of the sale of misbranded and adulterated food, drinks and drugs. On the same day, the Meat Inspection Act is also passed.

1937

The Central Advisory Board of Health is set up in India to build upon efforts made since 1919 to control the standards of adulterated foods. The board seeks to unify health standards of food across the country through the establishment of a committee designed to look into food quality.

1954

The Prevention of Food Adulteration Act is passed in India and governs all things food related, from food inspectors and product labelling to regulations for paan masala packets. The act also establishes the practice of sending food samples to laboratories for testing.

Pakistani health inspectors certify meat at a slaughterhouse in Lahore | AFP
Pakistani health inspectors certify meat at a slaughterhouse in Lahore | AFP

1960

The West Pakistan Pure Food Ordinance is created to control standards for the preparation and sales of food in West Pakistan. It prohibits things such as false warranty of food quality and unauthorised mixing of ingredients and chemicals in food.

1976

The Pakistan Hotels and Restaurants Act is passed to regulate the standards of amenities for tourists in hotels and restaurants in Pakistan. The act not only pertains to hotel quality and rates, but also to the service criteria required by one, two, three, four and five star hotels, respectively.

1996

The Pakistan Standard and Quality Control Authority is established which oversees food testing and inspecting mechanisms. It has the authority to inspect, sample, fine and revoke the licences of any authorities that do not comply with standards. It also provides training to local authorities to oversee standards.

2009

The Sindh Health Department meets to address potential changes to the Pure Food Rules (1965) and Pure Food Ordinance (1960) in order to create stricter regulations and penalties for violation of the directives.

PFA Facebook page
PFA Facebook page

2011

The Punjab Food Authority Act is established, which determines the jurisdiction of the authority, methods of enforcement and penalties.

2013

The District Health Department, Food Department and Capital Development Authority Health Directorate in Islamabad find 91 bakeries and 170 hotels in violation of the expected health standards. The establishments are issued strong warnings, along with having the substandard food products and unhygienic utensils confiscated.

2015

The PFA, directed by Ayesha Mumtaz, begins a crackdown on hotels, restaurants and food retailers in Lahore for improper safety standards. Her findings include what is suspected to be pig meat and donkey meat being used in food preparation at various restaurants.

— Compiled from the Punjab Food Auhority Act 2011, Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority Act 1996, The Pakistan Hotels and Restaurants Act 1976 and media reports