Centre, provinces lock horns over establishing uniform food standard


–Law Ministry sends matter to CCI for finding a solution

ISLAMABAD: Despite government’s utmost efforts for establishing a uniform standard for food items across the country, a deadlock still persists between the Centre and provinces, as the latter have rejected the government’s recommendations and the matter has been sent to the Council of Common Interests (CCI) by the Ministry of Law to find a solution, Pakistan Today has learnt.

Food manufacturers are also perturbed over this development as the lack of coordination between the Centre and the provinces; the idea of increased scrutiny from provincial food authorities and the central body, Pakistan Standard and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA), and additional licencing in case of inter-provincial trade, raises concerns over the future their businesses.

Since the matter has been sent back to the CCI, there has been no development on the formation of national standards, registration and licensing of manufacturers and trading houses and conformity assessment.

Earlier, the CCI had decided to resolve the constitutional and legal lacunas, review provincial food authorities acts, and suggest a mechanism for the enforcement of applicable technical regulations.

After the 18th Amendment and creation of the provincial food authorities and subsequent enforcement of different laws by the provinces, the inter-provincial trade and manufacturing of food items across the country was affected badly.

Last year, taking notice of the conflicting rules, enforcement and implementation of food standards in the provinces, the CCI had constituted a committee under the Ministry of Law to develop a uniform standard while giving the enforcement powers to the provincial food authorities.

Following CCI’s directives, the ministry had asked the Ministry of Science and Technology and the provincial food authorities to complete consultations over the issue.

Many meetings were held in this regard which were attended by secretaries of Ministry of Science and Technology secretary, Ministry of National Food Security & Research, Ministry of Inter-Provincial Coordination, along with representatives of Ministry of Industries and Production, Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, Board of Investment (BoI), PSQCA and secretaries of all provincial food departments.

Sources told this scribe that Punjab and Sindh have resisted the move to establish a uniform standard but they have agreed on the registration of manufacturing plants with the respective authorities of the provinces they are located in.

It is worth mentioning here that the law only mandates the PSQCA for ensuring the quality and standard of food items across the country and has given it the authority to include food items and non-food items in the Compulsory Certification Mark Scheme.

The authority has so far notified 105 mandatory items, including 40 food items. However, the provincial food authorities too have been exercising the powers to inspect food items and to penalise the manufacturers who do not meet the standards.

And now, they are reluctant to accept the regulation and enforcement of food laws and standards of PSQCA.