A parliamentary panel observed that most of the edible products available in markets are not certified or are substandard and directed the Ministry of Science and Technology to collect samples of three mandatory items — milk, bottled water and cooking oil — and submit the comprehensive report regarding their standard and qualities within one month.
Milk was included in the mandatory items in October 2016, while flour is still not included in the list notified by the government under section 14 of Pakistan Standard Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) Act VI of 1996.
“Most of the food items including flour, biscuits, milk, cooking oil/ghee etc in the country are substandard and some of them even contain chemical which is are extremely dangerous for health and hence resulting in increasing number of diseases”, observed a National Assembly Standing committee on Science and Technology.
The committee met with Chaudhry Tariq Bashir Cheema in the chair to discuss the performance of PSQCA and “Pakistan Council of Renewable Energy Technologies Bill, 2016”.
PSQCA officials informed the committee that the Authority is certified with 108 products for testing, inspection and certification according to international standards. However the committee expressed serious concerns while saying that certified food items including bottled water, milk and ghee are not available even in the federal capital.
“The things we and our children are eating are all substandard”, parliamentarians observed.
PSQCA officials informed that since October 2016, more than 200 notices have been served to different cooking oil/ghee units; however relevent departments are doing nothing and swung into action only after the Suo Moto notice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
PSQCA officials informed the committee that provinces are of the opinion that after the 18th Constitutional amendment, setting standard is their domain, however in most of the cases standards/regulating items deviate and result into confusion in markets.
“This is resulting in overlapped regulations and destroying the single market concept”, said officials, adding that if this is not stopped, it would result in market depletion and items manufactured in one city of the country would not be acceptable in others.
The committee recommended that setting standard should be the domain of federal government to keep uniformity and standard in food items. The Committee directed the PSQCA to keep check and balance over certified products.
The committee was further informed that PSQCA is a self-sustained/financed institute and that it does not take any funds from the government.
The Authority income was Rs 733 million during 2015-16 and generated Rs 480 million in the first six months of the current financial year against a target of Rs 950 million for 2016-17.
The Committee discussed the “Pakistan Council of Renewable Energy Technologies Bill, 2016” in detail however, the Committee was of the view that the said Bill is against the employees of the institution and hence it was unanimously opposed.
The Committee directed the Ministry to revisit the Bill and come up with the proposals of an attached department otherwise the Bill would be rejected.