LAHORE - Instead of extending city based Punjab Food Authority (PFA) across the province, the government is likely to establish a special task force to control rampant adulteration in all forms of food products in other districts, it has been learnt.

Official sources said it was decided at a high level meeting held to discuss issues of rising adulteration or misbranding of food items in the province. A force with mandate to curb, check, and monitor food mafias working across the province was being established. This task force can call police to join a campaign against adulteration to swoop down on those mafias indulging in it because the matter of food contamination was much serious.

The head office of the task force will be set up at Lahore but the DCOs and EDOs Health would supervise the task force in their respective districts. Earlier, the Punjab Pure Food Ordinance 1960 empowered the district governments to act against the adulterators. Though, the health department apprised the participants that its staff was already overburdened and engaged in polio vaccination and other campaigns, it would join in the move to curb food adulteration.

The Live Stock and Dairy Development Department told that it had district staff to join the newly established task force in the province.

It is relevant to mention here the PFA had conducted analysis of the samples of the products of various ghee companies and found five companies’ products substandard and injurious to human health.

A government’s public analyst laboratory declared the banaspati unfit for human consumption but the authority could not act against the powerful ghee mafia so far.

A former PFA officer told this scribe the laboratory had got tested samples from a number of restaurants, food chains, fast food outlets in the country and found that many licensed and registered eateries in the province were serving sub-standard products.

Earlier, as per new law, the government had to establish PFA offices in Multan, Rawalpindi, Faisalabad and Gujranwala. However, the Punjab government did not verify the moves made by the authority to extend its functions to others districts as well.

Even though the Punjab government assured to grant funds, it could not release them when demanded by the authority. The funds were required to recruit staff like food safety officers and other general staff, vehicles to carry out field operation and the laboratories to test food samples.

A DCO conditioning anonymity told this scribe the district administrations are indulged in multiple tasks so it would be hard for them to tackle more issues. He said the politicians-backed food mafias including ghee mill owners and sugar mill mafias made the government efforts to curb adulteration futile. However, he stressed the need of implementing the food safety laws rather than money making at the cost of human health.