Sunday, November 6, 2011


It is elementary common senses that dirty foods can cause havoc with the health of people. The whole science of hygiene and sanitation is built upon the principle that man needs to be protected against vectors like bacteria, fungi, viruses and insects and pests many of them being either directly harmful or carriers of diseases. Awareness about the linkage between vectors and diseases is supposed to be directly proportional to the level of education and literacy and more backward a country is in terms of development, more dangers the citizens will face. The food safety agencies under the government are vested with the task of supervising the food handling facilities to ensure that adequate precautions are taken by the industry to keep their places hygienic and follow sanitary practices. In countries like India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other developing countries the administration of safety protocols is grossly neglected either due to sheer callousness, lack of consideration for the well being of the citizens, malpractices or mismanagement. Those who travel frequently in these countries cannot but notice the hopeless quality and unsafe nature of foods prepared and served in many places including bus stands and rail stations. The situation in Pakistan seems to be as bad as or worse than that prevailing in India as reflected by a recent report emanating from that country.  

"Sale of unhygienic food and drinks at higher rates is on the rise at Railway Station and Peerwadhai and Faizabad Bus Stand, besides there is no quality control system from Pakistan Railways at Rawalpindi Railway Station, leaving passengers at the mercy of vendors. It has been observed that vendors selling food items, including samosas, pan cakes, pakoras, tea and other common food items prepare these at smelly open places, whereas no sanitary arrangement or hygienic measures are kept in mind while preparing these items. The vendors were of the view that they could not afford to consider the cleanliness of the items as their margin of profit was shrinking due to inflation. As if the preparation of the unhealthy food item was not enough, the serving is also disgraceful, as the plates and glasses used for the purpose are not properly cleaned. Sometimes drinks are served in used plastic bottles that can transmit different diseases to the consumers. Health experts say that substandard drinks and edibles may cause diseases like typhoid, hepatitis, diarrhea and different kinds of infections. They advised the people to take food along with them as the food available at the Railway station and the bus stand is hazardous for human consumption".

What is shocking is that these "bare truths" have been known for years to those who "rule" the country but nothing seems to have done to rectify the situation through deterrent policies and severe punishment regime for defaulters. Look at the report above and one can see the audacity of the violators when they say that they would not be able to improve the situation because of thin margin of the business! Interestingly the lousy foods served in these "transit" places are charged exorbitantly as the traveling public has no option but to eat them. The administering agencies which award contracts for setting up eateries in these places are often in collusion with the vendors and monopoly vending contracts without competition gives the eventual contractor full liberty to exploit the customers. Reports of consequences of serving such foods to consumers rarely get the attention they deserve because the consumers as most of them are not aggressive enough to take the vendors to task for the heinous crime they are committing. Such an attitude must have arisen because there is no credible mechanism for complaining and getting justice. Only mega food poisoning episodes catch national or local attention while individuals affected by food related disorders suffer them silently!


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