JAVED IQBAL & IFTIKHAR ALAM

LAHORE - The Punjab government will establish special courts to punish food adulterators. Punjab Food Authority (amendment) Ordinance 2015 has also been issued by the Punjab government in this regard.

A massive fine of up to three million besides life imprisonment on making unsafe food may be imposed on the manufacturer. The new law ensures the food adulteration cases would be tried in these special courts .

The need to amend the existing law was felt after the PFA officials found even the five star hotels guilty of food adulteration and not observing hygienic standards, official sources said.

As per the Punjab Food Authority (Amendment) Ordinance 2015, the hotels and restaurants would be classified according to the International Standard Certificate, which will be displayed at the eateries.

If a food operator removes the certificate or in any manner tampers with it or defaces it, the Food Authority may take one or more actions. A food operator, aggrieved by any decision of the food authority regarding categorisation of the premises, may, within sixty days of such decision, prefer an appeal to the Appellate Authority.

According to the ordinance, special courts may summarily try an offence punishable under this act and impose punishment of imprisonment for the term not exceeding six months or fine not exceeding one million rupees. If a special court is of opinion that the nature of the offence does not justify summary trial, it may conduct normal proceedings.

If a food operator manufactures, sells, offers for sale, stores or distributes or imports any food without the prescribed registration or licence, he shall be liable to imprisonment for a term from three days to one year and fine from Rs10,000 to Rs500,000.

The new ordinance enhanced penalties on committing of other food related adulterations or eateries business. A case regarding any food offence that falls within the jurisdiction of special court, pending in any court, shall stand transferred to the special court.

The Lahore High Court may transfer a case from one special court to another or from a special court to any other court or from any other court to a special court. However, a civil court will not entertain a suit against any proceedings taken or made under the act.

The government will also ensure performance audit of the food authority.

The owners of restaurants had protested against PFA director Ayesha Mumtaz’s crackdown on food adulteration but the Punjab government lauded the work done by the official. Aysha Mumtaz slapped Rs75,000 fine each on two top hotels of the metropolis for not meeting mandatory hygienic requirements.

Under her supervision, the PFA teams found that there was no proper arrangement to wash hands in the kitchen for workers, poor drainage in kitchen, and no expiry date mentioned on food items. The authority had to impose fine on five star hotels.

An officer of the PFA, while talking to this correspondent, said that after promulgation of new law, the authority would do more strict actions against food adulterators, no matter how powerful they are.

As the Punjab government has realised that there is no other way but to punish those earning bags of money through unfair means and by selling poisonous to common people, it would soon extend the authority’s jurisdiction to the whole province, said the official.

“The food mafias are so strong that they even threatened the director operations and other food safety officers,” the officer held, adding the special courts were need of the hour.

Some of the restaurants, bakeries and other food places sealed or fined by PFA include: Avari Hotel and Pearl Continental Hotel on The Mall, Gourmet Catering on Ferozepur Road, Cafe Zouk on MM Alam Road, Hospitality Inn on Mall Road, Mandarin Restaurant in Gulberg, Yasir Broast in Food Street Old Anarkali, Xiwang in Hunza Block Iqbal Town, Tabaq Restaurant in Gulberg, Gloria Jeans Coffee on Mehmood Kasuri Road, KFC at Thokar Niaz Baig, Hardees on MM Alam Road, Lahore Broast Shadbagh, Fri Chicks Kashmir Block Samanabad, Gourmet Bakers Main Faisal Town, AFC Regal Chowk Branch, Domeno Hut Gulberg Centre, Big Man's Sweet and Bakers Chappar Stop, Main Multan Road, Ze Grill Khokar Chowk Johar Town, Nirala Biryani Ravi Town, Punjab Bakery Gowal Mandi, Date Fast Food Point Panorama Mall Road, New Shinwari Hotel Ravi Town, Karachi Silver Spoon Johar Town, Al Fazal Milk Products Allama Iqbal Town, Italian Pizza Shalimar Town, Domeno Hut GT Road Begum Pura, Doce Ravi Town, Cafe Costa, Chaman Ice Cream, Karim Block, Ze Grill Valencia Town, Freddy's MM Alam Road, Chaman Ice Cream, Mall Road, Big Man's Pizza Shadman, Red Chili Restaurant Arfa Kareem Tower and many others.