Civil Society demands of efficient food regulation for Capital Islamabad

Civil Society Organizations demanded the government to bring in efficient consumer friendly food regulations in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) that can be replicated in the provinces. For this purpose a session on Creating Enabling Environment for Safe and Nutritious food in Islamabad Capital Territory and National Level Food Fortification Legislation was conducted by TheNetwork For Consumer Protection in Pakistan at Islamabad Hotel, Islamabad. The session aimed at creating awareness among the Civil Society Organizations of the Islamabad Capital Territory.

The session shed light on many important topics related to legislation, food security, food fortification, nutrition and consumer protection.

Mr. Khawaja Masood, National Coordinator at National Food Fortification Alliance of Pakistan (NFA) discussed important points related to Food Fortification Legislation and its importance for the citizens. NFA is a body that provides a platform to relevant stakeholders to oversee, plan, monitor and support the efforts for food fortification across Pakistan and establish liaison with them.

According to him, food safety consisted of four major elements including; Preparation of Food, Quality of Food, Ingredients, and Awareness related to food security and nutrition. He said, “Fortified food is necessary as most of the poor sections of the Pakistani society cannot afford natural foods to fulfill their daily need of vitamins and minerals”. He added that Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) and other public sector regulatory bodies focus more on the food safety, quality and hygiene but there is significant lack of fortification.

He added that all the provincial food authorities, as well as, ICT have been working on food fortification legislation since 2018. He supported the idea of Federal level legislation on food fortification that will serve as ‘umbrella legislation’ for the whole country. He said that the issue of legislation will be taken to the National Assembly this year.

Likewise, Mr. Nadeem Iqbal from TheNetwork, briefed upon the issue of Nutrition and Consumer empowerment. He said that a bottom-up approach must be taken in order to empower the consumer. He emphasized that there is a significant lack of consumer complaint redressal system.

He referred to the regulatory bodies which do not have well established standards that confuse the consumers. He suggested that consumers must be engaged in the formulation of the standards design and complaint redressal system.

Moreover, Mr. Faiz Rasool Senior Policy Advisor Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) talked about Food Systems and Public Policies. GAIN is a global non-profit organization whose aim is to promote the consumption of safe and nutritious food for all people. He was of the view that the development of the food authorities was a slow paced process.

GAIN as an organization has always contributed to food safety in Pakistan. He stressed that the food systems and their impending challenges must be understood by all the stakeholders. While mentioning the provincial food authorities, he said that they are already established institutions but there is significant lack of efficiency and utility.

He further said that behavior change among the common masses is one of the leading factors towards food security. He informed that the efforts were being put by the NFA, GAIN and TheNetwork to promote the promulgation of National level Act. He also mentioned the upcoming United Nations Food Systems Summit (2021).

Mr. Ishtiaq Gilani, CEO United Global Organization of Development (UGOOD) and Chairperson of National Action Coordination Group (NACG) also said that this issue can be taken up at international level through the platform of NACG. He further said that the topic was very enlightening and emphasized that health rating labels on food items must be introduced in the country. He agreed that consumer protection must be the foremost agenda of these efforts.

Mr. Aftab Ahmed Awan, also suggested that some mechanism must be formed in order to link these efforts to the UN Food Systems Summit. He also added that a summit can also be arranged at national level with special reference to ICT.

Ms. Aliya Syed from Community Development Organization Pakistan (CDO) appreciated the efforts of TheNetwork in this regard. She also gave suggestions regarding consumer complaint redressal system. In addition, she proposed that best practices can be adopted from Punjab Food Authority (PFA).

Members from different CSOs like IDRAK, CDO, SPARC , ADF, UGOOD and others actively participated in the session. The session was very useful in creating awareness about the imminent issues and challenges in the face of food fortification legislation and consumer protection with special regard to food and nutrition in Pakistan