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LAHORE: For the first time in the history of Pakistan, the all powerful sugar industry in Punjab has been told to ensure safe food standards or face closure.

The Punjab Food Authority (PFA) has taken up the tough challenge after noticing poor quality control and multiple food hygiene issues in almost all sugar mills in the province.

Eight-member teams from all the districts were sent to sugar mills in their respective areas on Jan 8 and 9.

The PFA teams found 11 basic bench marks missing -- no Halal certificates of some vital ingredients, no record of equipment calibration, no testing for heavy metals in end product, no record of yeast and mold test, no chemical validation used in Cleaning In Place (CIP), sugar bag stacking by foot, use of blue drum for sugar storage in laboratory, uncovered crushing and milling area, no manufacturing and expiry date, no separate store room for sugar and cleaning chemical.

The teams also noted that standard operating procedures (SOPs) had never been developed.

All 31 mills in Punjab do not meet basic requirements

The PFA inspected all 31 sugar mills (in Punjab)-- four each in Jhang, Rahim Yar Khan and Faisalabad districts, three each in Chinniot and Muzaffargarh, two each in Kasur, Mandi Bahauddin and Okara and one each in Khanewal, Bahawalnagar, Bhakar, Mianwali, Sargodha, Toba Take Singh and Layyah.

PFA Director General (DG) Noorul Amin Mengal issued on Friday warnings and improvement notices to all sugar mills and called their owners/ chief executive officers for a meeting next week to ensure food standards and PFA’s regulations.Mr Mengal told Dawn said that they were inspecting and checking food standards in sugar mills for the first time in the history of the country.

He said they had devised a plan to check the sugar mills twice a year for required rectification.

“Earlier, we were inspecting hotels, bakeries and restaurants (the end users of the food industry) but I brought a strategic shift to ensure food standards from top to bottom,” said Mr Mengal.The DG said PFA teams would conduct followup visits and seal those mills which failed to improve the standards.

He said they would also start inspection and monitoring of flour mills in the province to ensure food standards.

He said the PFA would ensure hygiene levels in all food businesses.

Published in Dawn, January 13th, 2018