Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has directed the Mayor of Islamabad and Chairman Capital Development Authority, Ansar Sheikh to establish a food authority in Islamabad, according to UN Information Centre, Islamabad's press release issued today.

He said this at the launch of Pilot Street Food Safety Programme (PSFSP) for Islamabad at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) premises in Islamabad. Ansar Seikh, welcoming the collaboration with FAO to launch PSFSP, said that in Pakistan, 300,000 children under the age of 5 die every year from diarrhoea resulting from unhygienic conditions including food contamination which was a matter of great concern. He pointed out that there was an urgent need to control the situation.

To mark the launch, an inception workshop was held at FAO Representation premises in Islamabad with the collaboration of Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Capital Development Authority (CDA).

This workshop was organized to bring all stakeholders on board to help identify ways to work together to develop a locally tailored food safety policy, its implementation and adopting food safety measures. Patrick T. Evans, FAO Representative in Islamabad stressed that combined efforts are required to make street food a safe option for consumers. He also said: “We have to work together to make needs assessment, raise awareness, build capacity and effectively monitor in order to improve livelihoods of those involved in the street food business.”

Participants from the health and education sector highlighted that with growing trade, industrialization, urbanization and economic prosperity eating behaviours and lifestyles have changed from cooking and eating at home to frequent dining out. Majority of the vendors are ignorant of personal and food hygiene and use substandard food additives (colors, flavorings etc.), adulterants and contaminants, result in serious threat to human health. Food associated diseases are a source of substantial burden on households, hospitals and medical providers compromise the work efficiency of the population and consequently causes huge economic losses to the country.

Yousaf Zafar, Chairman PARC , Director General National Agriculture Research Center (NARC), Dr Azeem Khan and Dr Hasan Orooj, Director General Health, Metropolitan Corporation of Islamabad were also present at the inception workshop. Food safety is an important pillar of food security and health more often ignored due to lack of awareness and weak regulatory mechanisms. It plays an important role in ensuring health and averting preventable foodborne diseases, alleviating sufferings of the people and minimizing the enormous losses of financial and human capital. Foodborne diseases are one of the preventable public health issues affecting a large proportion of the population around the world.

Realizing the fragile food safety situation of the country, The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Pakistan in collaboration with Ministries of Planning, Development and Reform, National Food Security and Research and Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation has launched a Pilot Street Food Safety Programme (PSFSP) for Islamabad.

Salient features of the programme are: Mapping of the street food vendors in Islamabad; Conducting a field survey to assess the food safety situation of street food vendors; Development a food safety training manual for street food vendors; Capacity building of street food vendors and other stakeholders; Development a food safety policy for Islamabad; Establishing Islamabad as a model for the food safety system and recognizing as a resource center for other parts of the country; and Dissemination and replication of food safety policy and programs in provinces and regions.