LAHORE - First batch of students of the Post Graduate Diploma Course in Food Safety and Control has successfully graduated and received their Diploma Certificate at a ceremony held at University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences campus on Monday.

This Diploma program, started through the support of the EU funded TRTA II program implemented by UNIDO in association with ITC and WIPO, is the first of its kind in Pakistan while UVAS is the pioneer university.

Food safety is a scientific discipline describing handling, preparation, and storage of food. This includes a number of routines that should be followed to avoid potentially severe health hazards. In lesser developing countries like Pakistan, food safety control system is weak.

Dr Talat Pasha, VC UVAS said that the country was affluent in agriculture and livestock wealth but lacked ability to fully exploit this rich resource due to insufficient investment, inadequate professionals, technologies and value-addition activities. He said the course was started following various reports of UNIDO, which revealed that Pakistan was suffering a general failure of its sanitary and phyto-sanitary (SPS) control system. This failure impacts on domestic animal, plant and human health and undermines access to export markets, he stated.

Food safety has been a neglected area in the past, with divided mandates, weak institutions, outdated legislation and lack of budgetary support, Dr Pasha said adding the government is responding positively to these failures with a program to reform Federal and Provincial institutions.

The course, started in the university was unique and had made the institution a leader in Food Safety over the next 20-30 years, said Dr Muhammad Nasir, Head of Food Science and Human Nutrition Department UVAS. He said this Post Graduate diploma will certainly produce and trained human resource, which will be used to develop this industry. Giving an example, he said The Punjab Pure Food Rules 2011 and International experts’ suggested, a modest provision of one (01) Inspector/ Officer per 50,000 population so there will be a need for almost 3600 inspectors to be trained to meet current needs.

With this Post Graduate Diploma, the UVAS will protect the general consumers by improving the safety status of food up to consumer desk and facilitate Pakistan’s capacity to integrate into global trade. Besides this the course will improve compliance of exported and imported products with market requirement, bridge the knowledge gap of the existing food safety officers and partner institutions globally and provide internationally recognised training opportunity locally by creating partnership with International faculty.

On Monday, the Diploma was conferred to 35 students who received their certificates from the UNIDO OiC / Chief Technical Advisor of TRTA II programme, Bruno Valanzuolo and the Vice Chancellor of UVAS, Dr Talat Naseer Pasha.

These students, as part of the course requirement, also completed 6 weeks internship at various organisations which included the Punjab Food Authority, Animal Quarantine Dept. Lahore as well as the food manufacturers, such as Nestle, Engro Foods, Bunny’s Bread and numerous laboratories, confectionery’s, restaurants in and around the Lahore area