Food Safety Legislation in Pakistan: Identifying Entry Points for Public Intervention
Food safety is a concern of everyone. Given that food intake is the fundamental precondition for survival, food safety issues embrace us all the time. Food safety simply means that what we eat, chew or drink is safe for human health. In order to ensure that people get safe food, multidimensional approaches have to be taken at all levels of a food chain e.g. production, storage, supply, distribution, and consumption, etc. The government and citizens are two major stakeholders in any approach to food safety. Food producers and food industry also play very important role in ensuring food safety, but this is not discussed in this paper. The focus of this paper rests on the role of government and citizens in achieving food safety through enforcement of proper legislation.
Though implementation of legislative measures is basically the mandate of the state, citizens have also a major role to play in any legislative scheme. The state provides a legal framework that lays down certain conditions for those involved in provision of food to the people. These conditions may include prohibition of the sale of adulterated goods, compliance with prescribed technical specifications, bio-safety guidelines, etc. Most of the countries around the world have developed their own legal frameworks for ensuring food safety, notwithstanding the effectiveness of these frameworks. Pakistan does not have an integrated legal framework but has a set of laws, which deals with various aspects of food safety. These laws, despite the fact that they were enacted long time ago, have tremendous capacity to achieve at least minimum level of food safety. However, like many other laws, these laws remain very poorly enforced.
This paper argues that, notwithstanding the financial constraints involved, the major reason for poor enforcement of food safety laws is the lack of demand from citizens. It is hardly any exaggeration to say that there is no public monitoring of the food safety legislation at all. It is for this reason that relevant government authorities have had shown little will in enforcing these laws. This paper presents a brief overview of the existing national laws that deal with food safety. Then, the paper finds out some entry points where citizens can play their role in making these laws more effective.
Laws Dealing with Food Safety in Pakistan
There exist a large number of food laws in Pakistan. However, most of them deal with control of production, distribution and supply of food, in addition to dealing with profiteering and hoarding. There are four laws that specifically deal with food safety. Three of these laws directly focus issues related to food safety, while the fourth one namely Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority Act, is indirectly relevant to food safety. A brief overview of these laws is given below:
The Pure Food Ordinance, 1960 consolidates and amends the law in relation to the preparation and the sale of foods. All provinces and some northern areas have adopted this law with certain amendments. Its aim is to ensure purity of food being supplied to people in the market and, therefore, provides for preventing adulteration. The law prohibits any person to mix, colour, stain or powder any food, if the mixing involves violation of prescribed rules or is likely to make the food injurious for health. The prescribed rules set standards for colouring, preservatives, flavouring compounds, antioxidants, stabilisers, anti-caking agent, non-nutritive constituents, and metals. The law also prohibits sale, preparation, manufacture, import or export of such food for human consumption, which is unsound, unwholesome, or injurious to health, in addition to misbranded food items. Besides, the law sets rules for labeling of pre-packed food and precautionary measures to be taken during storage, stocking and packing. There are four criterion...
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