Restaurants beware! The Sindh Food Authority is coming

KARACHI:The Sindh government announced on Wednesday that the Sindh Food Authority (SFA) will start a crackdown against eateries serving substandard food.

This is the third such crackdown announced by the provincial government since the law, to provide for the safety and standards of food, was passed in March 2017. Former food ministers, Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, Syed Nasir Hussain Shah and even the incumbent Food Minister Hari Ram had pledged action earlier but it was to no avail.

Now, Sindh chief minister’s advisor on information, law and anti-corruption, Barrister Murtaza Wahab has come up with a new promise of action.  He advised all restaurants and hotels owners to improve the standards of their food items. He also stressed on compliance with hygienic conditions. Failure to do so would lead to the closure of the restaurants and hotels and arrest of the owners, he added.

“Sindh Food Authority has decided to launch an aggressive campaign against eateries, confectioneries and food related factories,” said Wahab in a statement. “We urge upon the owners to improve the quality of their food stuff and hygienic conditions,” he added.

The SFA works under a board headed by the food minister with the health secretary as its vice-chairperson. Three provincial legislators, all deputy commissioners, social welfare secretary, culture, agriculture, local government, public health engineering department and a representative from the chamber of commerce and industry are among the other members of the board.

For the past one year, SFA has been dormant.  According to the law, SFA is responsible for regulating and monitoring the food business in the province. However, it has failed to implement rules, appoint staff and establish offices at the division and district levels. Although the director-general and operations director have been appointed, there is no proper setup for employees of SFA at the district or divisional levels yet.

“As per law, the authority has to build a food laboratory for carrying out analysis of samples of any food item or food-related equipment or utensils. Under this law, the government has to appoint food public analysts and food safety officers. This all still in process,” said an official from the food department.

According to the Sindh Food Authority Act 2017, the government also has to establish a scientific panel comprising food director as its convener, a representative with a background in food and science technology, and other members to determine quality food standard. This has not been finalised as yet either.

“A person who sells or offers for sale any adulterated food or related things which are not in compliance with the provisions of this Act, shall be liable to imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months or a fine which may extend to Rs1 million or both,” reads the law.

“Any person who manufactures for sale, stores, sells, distributes, imports or exports any food which is not of standard or is misbranded, shall be liable to imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months and fine which may extend to Rs1m or with both,” it reads further.

Speaking to The Express Tribune Sindh Food Authority Director-General Amjad Leghari said that they have finalised all arrangements and SFA will be functional soon. “We are going to award tenders for the establishment of main food laboratory and mobile laboratories in Sindh,” said Leghari, adding that they have also advertised for the posts of food public analysts and food safety officers. “We have also short listed people for the scientific panel,” he said. According to Leghari, the deputy director will head the authority at the divisional level and assistant directors will be appointed in each district of the province.  “We are late because there were no rules. We have now finalised the rules and all arrangements including appointments of officers and setting up offices will be made within a short span of time,” he assured.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 20th, 2018.