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Anti-adulteration drive targets high-end outlets in Islamabad

Anti-adulteration drive targets high-end outlets in Islamabad

ISLAMABAD: The drive against food outlets reached its third day on Friday, with teams of assistant commissioners (AC) and magistrates inspecting prestigious eateries that did not meet their standards. However, the teams have continued to overlook most food outlets.

The Islamabad deputy commissioner (DC) informed the media that Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration officials raided almost 10 outlets, including the Marriott Hotel whose bakery and store were sealed, as well as Des Pardes and Papasalis.

In addition to high-end outlets, two cafés at the International Islamic University Islamabad (IIUI) were also sealed, IIUI spokesperson Harran Khattak revealed.

He said both cafés were already under observation, and that the university had received complaints about them. Khattak said the university supported the ICT administration’s action.

He added that there was one café still open for students, and that once the other two were unsealed, they would be handed over to another firm.

However, food outlets in commercial areas have gone mostly untouched, even though they see heavy traffic from many of the city’s workers.

The majority of these outlets operate in visibly unhygienic conditions, using damaged crockery and dirty tables. Some restaurants even have tables near open drains.

“It is strange that nobody can see the conditions at these restaurants in the city’s commercial areas,” Mohammad Zaheer, an IT expert who works in Blue Area said.

“The rates at these restaurants are quite high too.”

“These things need permanent intervention and can’t be rectified in one go,” an AC who raided a prestigious outlet said.

There are around 293 restaurants registered with the Capital Development Authority (CDA), but the authority only registers outlets operating in commercial areas.

The CDA only has the power to impose fines on restaurants that are registered with it, and CDA officials blame the ICT administration for not doing enough to streamline the food sector.

“We do not have the power to seal any outlet or check restaurants operating illegally in residential areas, but ICT has also been ignoring them,” a CDA official said.

The current anti-adulteration drive launched by the ICT came after the interior minister commended the efforts of officials in the Punjab government, who had been monitoring food outlets in Lahore.

The ICT took action against more than 60 outlets in three days, all of which were successful, as officials found shortcomings ranging from very to significantly serious.

“This is because we have some strong sense, and there have been complaints against various food outlets,” another AC said.

However, Islamabad DC retired Capt Mushtaq Ahmed said the raids were conducted by ACs and magistrates randomly in their respective sub-divisions.

Meanwhile, a majority of the sealed outlets, including Savour Foods and Chaaye Khaana, have been reopened by executive magistrates at the ICT within 24 hours.

Ahmed said that the raids and sealing of outlets are part of corrective action and are not aimed at putting anyone out of business.

“If they fail to meet the standards again, these outlets will be sealed for five to seven days,” he said, adding that “but at the same time we have also taken action against mid-level restaurants”.

Ahmed denied that action had only been taken against high-end outlets.

“We are not following the food inspector or anybody – the ICT issues challans worth Rs2.3 million last month alone, which is a significant figure in a city of Islamabad’s size,” he said, adding, “The only difference is that this time we are involving the media in our raids.”

Published in Dawn September 12th, 2015

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