October 16 is celebrated as World Food Day worldwide. The reason to celebrate such days globally is to either celebrate something, like an achievement of humanity, or to bring together world leaders and population on a certain issue to reinforce that issue for the betterment of humanity at large. World Food Day is also no exception. The idea behind celebrating this day is to bring together the masses on the issue of safe food provision, hunger and to make the world hunger free. According to a report by FAO (Food and Agriculture Organisation), if the whole world comes together to uproot hunger, then it can completely end by 2035. For this purpose, the whole decade from 2016-2025 has been dedicated to removing hunger from the world. As hunger is a global issue, all countries in the world are affected by it, there is no exception of developed, under developed or developing countries, all are facing hunger and food issues in so many ways that they cannot be ignored anymore.

World Food Safety Day is not only dedicated to removing hunger, but this year, after the pandemic crisis, it also focuses on recovering, especially the food sector in a better way. Food safety, like hunger, is also a global issue and it also demands to be addressed in the same manner. 1 in 10 people fall ill every year due to unsafe and substandard food consumption which means 420,000 people die every year. This alarming mortality figure cannot be ignored. The most common food borne illnesses include stomach aches, vomiting and diarrhoea etc. Food contaminated with hazardous chemicals and adulterants can also lead to lifelong health problems i.e. cancer and neurological disorders. This can all be avoided if we all work together to end this crisis. Nowadays, the food supply system is quite complicated and involves a range of different stages including i.e. on-farm production, slaughtering or harvesting, processing, storage, transportation and distribution; after the aforementioned stages it reaches consumers. Every person involved in the food provision process, from production till its distribution has to act responsibly. Ensuring quality food and provision to all is the only way to avoid hunger, malnutrition, food borne illnesses and such other issues. This World Food Day, we must resolve to work together.

Initiatives have been taken internationally as well as nationally in this regard. Recently a new initiative of “mobile milk testing laboratories” has been taken by the Punjab Food Authority to ensure pure milk provision for the people of Punjab. Senior provincial minister for food Mr Abdul Aleem Khan himself along with high officials of the Punjab Food Authority i.e. Director General Punjab Food Authority Mr Irfan Nawaz Memon, Chairman Punjab Food Authority Umer Tanveer Butt and Secretary Food inaugurated the project. Initially, six mobile milk testing labs are located at all entry points of Lahore and then gradually the project will be extended across all of Punjab.

Each milk carrying vehicle will be checked at the spot and only pure milk will be allowed to be sold in the market. If any impurity is found in milk, it will be discarded at the spot. This is a very good initiative taken up by the Punjab Food Authority because milk adulteration is a serious issue. Adulterated milk consumption can be a potential cause behind more than 200 food borne diseases. Another very effective measure taken up by Punjab Food Authority is, “free milk testing”. Now any person can bring a milk sample to any office of the Punjab Food Authority and get it checked free of cost. This way people will become aware of the impurities that contaminated milk contains and will start to avoid those specific milk merchants selling adulterated milk. Punjab Food Authority, in view of the Prime Minister’s and Chief Minister Punjab’s vision, is working day and night to ensure safe food provision. As responsible citizens, we must support such initiatives and move towards a healthy future. Food safety and eliminating hunger are two major issues that demand the attention of each and every single person. To eliminate these two issues, we all need to join hands and start working on eliminating world hunger and food contamination together. People should make vigilant and wise food choices and adopt adequate behaviours. They should know common food hazards and how to handle food safely, using the information provided in food labelling. Be vigilant and play a positive part in this regard; this World Food Day help and support authorities, unprivileged people and do whatever it takes to make our future healthy.

Hafiz Qaiser Abbas

The writer is the Director Public Relations and Awareness Wing, Punjab Food Authority.