LAHORE - An uptown cafe in a posh area that charges about three times higher than what other facilities charge for the same menu was found drying its wooden trays in a washroom, something unbelievable given the apparent standard of its service to customers.

The Punjab Food Authority found this malpractice at the cafe and allowed it to resume its operations within two days after it paid the Rs50,000 fine.

The Butlers Chocolate Cafe was found guilty and drew social media criticism when a customer went to wash his hands before the meal was served. He found wooden trays being dried in the washroom area where “non-functional” was written. He posted pictures online and they went viral. People on Twitter and Facebook praised PFA for speedy action and also questioned lenient action against the cafe.

Butlers Cafe said in its clarification posted on Facebook, “An investigation revealed that the sensationalised post was made by a customer who had breached an out-of-use washroom, which was being used to store non-food waste for disposal. Over the Eid holiday period, the normal waste collection service was not available.”

PFA DG Noorul Amin Mengal defended the lenient action, saying it was just a one-time blunder and that the authority’s real objective is to improve hygienic conditions.

The PFA closed down many food points during the past few months for their failure to comply with the rules. The DG told The Nation that licences of a dairy point and Al-Bilal Juice Point have been cancelled due to their failure to comply with the PFA standards.

It has been observed that PFA in its 2017 performance report stated it shut down 3,249 food points in a year. However, all of them are back to business as the PFA has its power to condone all lapses under the law.

According to first three months performance report, PFA shut down 1,417 food businesses and registered 53 FIRs in police stations.

It is pertinent to mention that PFA DG’s ‘full satisfaction’ is needed for withdrawal of emergency prohibition order against any food operator which was sealed earlier due to food safety hazards.

PFA, which is running an aggressive campaign to deal with the food mafia, is bound to send improvement notices to food operators under Section 16 of the Act by the Food Safety Officer (FSO) or Assistant Food Safety Officer (AFSO).

All closed food businesses can only be unsealed in accordance with the PFA ordinance, which states that full satisfaction of the DG is required in order to unseal or cancel the prohibition order.

According to The Punjab Food (Improvement Notice, Prohibition Orders and Emergency Prohibition Orders) Regulations) 2017, the director general of the Food Authority “has a reason to believe that a health risk/hazard is no longer present in food against which emergency prohibition order was passed.

He after recording reasons in writing can recall/withdraw or suspend such order or pass any appropriate order he deems fit and appropriate in

this regard”.

According to regulations, it is required by the FSO or AFSO to describe matter, issue or discrepancies which constitute an offence under the Act, the rules or the regulations, which the food operator has failed to comply in due course of time.

“Where the food operator fails to comply with the instructions or directions contained in improvement notice within the stipulated time, legal proceedings under section 27 of the Act shall be carried out against such non-compliant food operator,” it stated.