Restaurateurs up in arms against food authority raids

  • Accuse Punjab Food Authority of conducting unwarranted raids on food outlets to make up for expenses incurred on new office
  • Demand representation of owners in food authority saying ‘it lacks food experts’

A large number of owners and workers associated with different eateries from all over the city protested in front of the Lahore Press Club (LPC) on Tuesday against the “high-handedness” of the Punjab Food Authority (PFA).

The protesters were carrying placards inscribed with slogans against the ‘hyperactive’ PFA, which has been actively conducting raids on restaurants and food outlets across the city to check hygiene and food content quality.

Addressing the press conference, Ahmad Shafique, general secretary of LRA, accused the food authority of massive corruption and financial mismanagement.

“The authority has recently shifted its office to a lavish building and is trying to fill the financial gap by imposing heavy fines on the restaurants,” he alleged, adding that the food authority is portraying a negative image of the city’s restaurants by uploading ‘fake’ photographs on its Facebook (FB) page.

Doubting the authority’s intentions, Shafique questioned, “Why does the PFA remove positive comments about noted eateries from its FB page and tries to play with negative comments in a bid to seek public sympathy?”

LRA President Kamran Sheikh was of the view that the staff of the PFA is “non-technical and unaware” of modern trends of food preservation. Sheikh, who owns One Potato Two Potato (OPTP) and Gun Smoke, told Pakistan Today that he has visited almost every developed country of the world and never witnessed this sort of food inspection.

Ahmad Shafique, general secretary of LRA, while speaking to Pakistan Today said that the PFA was established in 2011 and not a single Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has been issued yet. He demanded stern action against those who are dealing in unhygienic food but not at the expense of those who are operating fairly. According to him, not a single awareness campaign was launched since the inception of the PFA.

Dr Kaiser Rafiq, CEO of Options Bakers and Delights, said that he has filed a petition against the PFA in the court as the authority has sealed his outlet which also housed Lahore’s biggest aquarium. Rare fishes worth Rs 4 million died due to the PFA’s negligence, he added.

The restaurants owners demanded to have representation in the food authority, saying there was no food expert in the body. They proposed and invited PFA officials to a debate on any forum.

It is pertinent to mention here that PFA launched a rigorous campaign against the famous eateries of Lahore that include two five star hotels since the joining of its new Director Operations, Ayesha Mumtaz.

A fine of about Rs 3 million has been collected in recent days and 230 food outlets were sealed in the city in addition to 330 arrests. Repeated attempts were made to contact Ayesha Mumtaz but she didn’t respond to the calls and text messages.