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Food hygiene in Pakistan–prevention is better than cure

Let’s go back a few months, when reports of various restaurants being shut down were coming from all parts of the country. At first it all sounded too good to be true, but as the reports started to flood in every day, it dawned on me, that this was really happening.

All it took was one woman to start a chain reaction which ended up benefiting people all over Pakistan. We as a nation have a habit of being aware about things, both good and bad; however one thing that we lack in is the will to take any action regarding those things, especially the bad. You and I know the ingredients and contents that are in the food that we have from our favorite samosa shop or the pani puri stand, yet we choose to ignore all that and have all this anyways. I do understand that we as Pakistanis love food, and love it a lot, but often a times, we end up satisfying our hunger with food which is actually detrimental to our health.

One would ask that, why is it so that all these institutions, from big restaurants to small corner shops are allowed to sell unhygienic food, which is prepared in even worse conditions. For me, two main reasons stand out the most, (a) bad governance and (b) general public’s tolerance and inaction. Bad governance because the local authorities know all about it but fail to take any action whatsoever as long as they get their cut from the profits, they’ve simply turned a blind eye to all this and allowed these people to continue exploiting us and our health. Our tolerance and inaction, because we are also fully aware of all this, but we do not take the necessary action (which is our responsibility) as the citizens of this country to stop such people from feeding us such harmful food.

Despite all this, there are still some people out there, who’ve made it their job to enlighten the general public about what’s in our meal and how it is made. A prominent example of such a person would be Iqrar ul Hasan, the presenter of the program Sar-e-Aam, who focuses primarily on all that is wrong and is taking place in our society. In a lot of episodes he showed us all how the oil that the ordinary vendors use is made from the bones of dead animals such as cows, dogs, donkey etc, and how donkey meat itself is sold as beef in the market. A lot of us must have seen those episodes too, and felt extremely disgusted, but ask yourself whether you took any action on it. Iqrar ul Hasan, like the female food hygiene officer, is only a very small fraction of people who actually raised a voice, they did that so people such as us could learn and save ourselves, but it’s sad to see that we enjoy only those things, which are the most detrimental to our health and the people around us. We may not realize this now, but food and ingredients such as the ones which are readily available in the markets these days are altering our genetic makeup, and not only affecting us, but will also affect our generations that are yet to come.

I completely understand and sympathize with all the foodies out there, as I am also a foodie to an extent, however we as responsible citizens and future leaders need to take part in bringing about a change, which will have a positive impact not only on us but our future generations. The least that we can do is raise our voice and refrain/boycott from consuming such food items or join hands with forces such as Iqrar-ul-Hasan in bringing all these culprits to justice.

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