LAHORE – The Punjab Food Authority that earned much respect for keeping a close eye on hygienic conditions in eateries across the province has now geared up to monitor online home-made food sellers.
PFA Director General Noorul Amin Mengal has directed his staff to immediately issue a newspaper advertisement warning all online food sellers to get licences from PFA within a period of one month; otherwise, action will be taken against them as per law.
The directives were issued after the official was contacted by a leading daily inquiring whether the online food sellers are exempted from obtaining any food license or not due to legal loopholes.
“No extra legislation is required to handle online food businesses,” replied Mengal.
It bears mentioning that the sale of online food is going on across the country unchecked. The business that has now been opted on a commercial basis, is worth millions but is not taxed.
The online food handlers advertise their cuisines through social media with catchy captions and alluring pictures to lure in more customers but as the PFA rules apparently did not apply to house making food inside their homes, the business was continuing without any check and balance.
The hygienic conditions, expiry dates of the ingredients, medical status of staffers and food quality all remain unmonitored despite a food authority in place.
Although the food regulator was established under the Punjab Food Authority Act 2011 but till date no such raids or monitoring system was in place to supervise food handlers working commercially through their home-based kitchens.
According to the food laws, all food products should include labels with complete disclosure of ingredients, net quantity, the weight of total ingredients, as well as the name and location of the maker of the packaged goods. In case of online food sellers, such information is completely missing.
When multiple online food sellers were asked about their opinion regarding the need for a food license, they replied that the food was being manufactured inside their kitchens the same way as for their family.
“We are not doing a proper food business so why should we take a licence from PFA?” said Mrs Akhtar, a who is offering frozen food on her Facebook page.
With the latest directives by the PFA chief, it is highly likely that the digital food sellers will be brought under the umbrella of the Food Authority, ensuring the same level of hygiene and quality that is available in ordinary restaurants which were made to mend their ways by Punjab Food Authority.