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Packaged milk industry not regulated for 40 years

ISLAMABAD: A National Assembly committee, stirred by the recent harrowing reports about adulterated milk being sold, came in for a greater shock when they visited the Ministry of Science and Technology for a briefing on the issue on Monday.

Production and marketing of packaged milk has remained regulated since their introduction. It was not even listed among the items of common use whose checking is mandatory until recently, Secretary Fazal Abbas Maken of the ministry told the members of the NA Standing Committee on Science and Technology.

But he assured them that in future packaged milk would be checked regularly as it was included in the list of 108 mandatory items last October through the efforts of Federal Minister Rana Tanveer Hussain.

A disclosure made in the Supreme Court during its hearings on the trade had sent shockwaves in the country. It said packaged milk producers used the chemical formalin, used to preserve dead bodies, to prolong the shelf-life of their product.

After listening to the officials, the committee directed the ministry to send it a detailed report about the quality of milk, oil/ghee and water, and another one about the performance of its ancillary departments, within one month.

It also decided to make the ministry’s report public.

Secretary Maken admitted that the situation was “very bad” and that consumers were suffering.

“There are tea whiteners that have nothing to do with milk but are marketed as milk. Sugar-added liquids are sold as juices and people having diabetes drink them thinking they are good for their health,” he said.

“People should check the ingredients before buying edible items,” advised the official.

MNA Usman Khan Trakai of Awami Jamhoori Ittehad suggested that since their producers and manufacturers “have very long hands,” the committee make public both the reports it has called from the ministry.

MQM MNA Sajid Ahmed said members of parliament and district government representatives should be involved in taking action against the mafias selling adulterated food items.

“It is unfortunate that consumers suffer adulterated food items but no action is taken against their producers,” he said.

Dr Akhtar Bughio, a representative of the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA), informed the committee that there were 11 labs in the country with facilities to carry out 32 different tests. But the fact was that “in Pakistan nobody wants to get his products certified voluntarily.”

Dr Bughio saw the problem increasing in the future because some provinces have introduced their own standards.

PTI MNA Ali Mohammad wanted to know why it is only when the Supreme Court takes suo motu notice that government ministries and departments stir into action.

“It is a huge crime to feed adulterated milk to children, but the punishment is same for selling adulterated milk and adulterated perfume,” he said, recalling that a female officer was made OSD and then transferred because she took action against the food factory of an influential personality in Lahore.

JUI-F MNA Aliya Kamran also felt the same.

Secretary Mekan of the ministry, however, said the inquisitive committee members could imagine the difficulties of the relevant department in controlling the adulterators when it had only 500 persons on its staff, including the technician of the testing labs.

Chairman of the committee, Tariq Bashir Cheema of the PML-N, proposed that a Helpline should be printed on the packets of all edible items for ensuring action in case of any complaint by the consumers.

“It will be in for great embarrassment if the Supreme Court asked the least bothered ministry about the action it has taken,” he said.

“We need a complete report about the milk, oil and water within one month,” he said.

courtesy : dawn news

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