Health hazards: Food adulteration in Pakistan escalates into gunfire as tainted products detected by the tonne

By Pearly Neo contact

- Last updated on GMT

Pakistan’s Punjab Food Authority (PFA) has detected and discarded thousands of kilogrammes of adulterated food and beverage items over the past month, with over 100 brands deemed to be ‘unsafe’, amidst its efforts to intensify inspections in the province. ©Getty Images
Pakistan’s Punjab Food Authority (PFA) has detected and discarded thousands of kilogrammes of adulterated food and beverage items over the past month, with over 100 brands deemed to be ‘unsafe’, amidst its efforts to intensify inspections in the province. ©Getty Images

Related tags: Pakistan, Adulteration

Pakistan’s Punjab Food Authority (PFA) has detected and discarded thousands of kilogrammes of adulterated food and beverage items over the past month, with over 100 brands deemed to be ‘unsafe’, amidst its efforts to intensify inspections in the province.

In its most recent raid on October 6 alone, the agency discarded some 28,700 kg worth of food items, all of which failed standard laboratory tests, according to the PFA’s Facebook page.

“The PFA has confiscated and destroyed 17,300kg of spices from brands that failed the lab tests, along with 11,400kg worth of sauces that were found to be adulterated,”​ said PFA Director General Captain Muhammad Usman.

Adulterated oil has also been a major subject of focus in the past month: 103 ghee and cooking oil brands were declared ‘unfit for human health’​ by the PFA, with some 68,000kg of these being removed from the market and discarded.

“We conducted the [ghee and oil brands] sampling to confirm the availability of requisite micronutrients [as well as] check the quality and standards,”​ said Usman.

“Of the 317 samples we collected from the open market, [we] found that 56 samples failed on quality parameters and 47 on safety parameters in the analytical laboratory test report.

“Production from these failed brands will remain suspended until further notice, and samples will be retested after proper measures are taken.”

Amongst the brands affected included popular cooking oil brands Dalda, Sufi, Eva, and ConAgra’s Sundrop. Dalda, Sufi and Eva were previously named to be amongst the Top Seven Cooking Oil Brands in Pakistan by local online grocery TazaMart.

In the same week, some 5,000 litres of adulterated milk were also detected whilst being transported to a milk store. This was discarded after being found to be chemically contaminated, whereas another 1,500 litres of contaminated milk was found already in the shop itself.

“[In total], over 100,000 litres of adulterated milk [have already been] recovered in the past week,”​ said Usman.

“Three PFA members were also seriously injured when attempting to apprehend milk adulterators, when these assailants [attacked with] gunfire.”

From milk adulteration to gunfire

According to official PFA statements, in the September 25 attack the adulteration gang, headed by a ‘Dr Khalid’, had first taken an initial PFA team hostage for four hours, subjecting them to ‘continuous slapping and beating’​.

Following intervention from the police, the hostage team was released but as the gang attempted to escape, gunshots were fired which led to three members suffering severe injuries, one of them in the head. ‘Dr Khalid’ was not apprehended at the scene.

“The team came under attack before it had even taken any action against the adulterators,”​ said Usman.

“This particular racket was running a factory producing as much as 80,000 litres of adulterated milk a day.”

This incidence of gunfire is the first reported thus far, although the PFA has previously has seen opposition in the form of protests by milk sellers​, which claimed a ‘clear bias’​ against the dairy industry and the large amounts of milk being disposed as a means for the agency to just ‘show performance’​.

PFA is known to be particularly active in conducting raids and taking action against food adulteration in the country, particularly against milk​. It received strong support from Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Uzman Buzdar, which previously urged the agency to show ‘no leniency’​.

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