Food adulteration goes unpunished

* CDGL official says courts only imposing fines on food adulterators instead of imprisoning them 

* Former district food officer says it is mandatory to award imprisonment under Punjab Pure Food Ordinance

 By Rana Kashif

 LAHORE: Despite several meetings between the authorities concerned, no mechanism has yet been devised to award appropriate punishments to those supplying adulterated food, against whom the Food Department has issued thousands of challans in the past few years.

 An official of the City District Government Lahore (CDGL), requesting anonymity, told Daily Times on Tuesday the efforts of the CDGL to eradicate adulterated food items from the city have been futile. He said the Food Department, despite conducting frequent raids, issuing challans, and filing cases with the court against those responsible, was unable to stop the supply of adulterated food.

 No punishment: The official said the District Food Department had conducted hundreds of raids against those involved in the business of adulterated food but to no avail. He said the department had sent 50,000 challans to the court but no cases had been reported in which punishment was awarded. He said fines were imposed but punishment (in terms of imprisonment) was not awarded to the culprits despite it being mandatory to imprison the cuplrits under law.

 The official said setting a precedent for those involved was of paramount importance in eliminating the adulteration of food, adding conducting raids and seizing huge amounts of adulterated food was useless if the culprits were taught a lesson under law.

 Another official of the CDGL, on condition of anonymity, said there was a lack of coordination between the District Food Department and the court where challans were submitted. He said all the meetings between the court officials and Food Department officials had proven fruitless. He said former district food officer Chaudhry Munir held meetings with district and sessions judges as well as the former Lahore High Court chief justice Chaudhry Iftikhar Hussain with the hope of awarding due punishment, in accordance with law, to all those found guilty of adulterating food. However, the official said all such meetings could not change the fate of those guilty of food adulteration, as they only had to pay a fine. Munir confirmed the claims of the official. Another official, on condition of anonymity, said this fine did not halt their involvement in the business of food adulteration, as many large-scale ‘criminals’ earned much more than they paid in fines.

 Law: Munir said imposition of a fine was insufficient, and under the law, it was mandatory to award them imprisonment. He said under the Punjab Pure Food Ordinance, the punishment for involvement in the production or sale of substandard food items entailed a fine of Rs 5,000 to Rs 100,000 and imprisonment of six months to five years.

 District Food Officer Dr Masood Ashraf said the Food Department was unaware of punishments or fines awarded to those involved. He said the department was not receiving any feedback from the court concerned. He said the process of developing an understanding between Food Department officials and the court was in progress, adding that he was hopeful of reaching a mutual understanding on the matter.\13\story_13-5-2009_pg13_1

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