ISLAMABAD: The provinces have finally agreed over the establishment of uniform standards for food and other consumer items across the country with the condition that enforcement will be the responsibility of respective provincial authorities.
The decision was taken at the Council of Common Interests (CCI) recently. All provinces agreed to have a uniform standard of food and other consumer products, set by the Pakistan Standard and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA), an attached department of the Ministry of Science and Technology (MoST).
Meanwhile the federal government has agreed to give up the power of enforcement and monitoring of standards allowing the provincial government and food authorities to implement the standards.
An official of the MoST said further discussions will be held at the CCI to discuss the criteria and terms for enforcement of the standard in its next meeting.
After the 18th Amendment, provinces — mainly Punjab — initiated the process of formulating their own quality standards by not accepting the role of PSQCA as the sole body for registering, monitoring and implementing consumer items.
However it has been decided that PSQCA would continue to formulate or adopt standard for consumer items and the provinces and their respective food authorities will enforce them.
There were serious complaints from various sectors due to several food standards in the countries as ghee and oil manufacturing industry, dairy industry, packed spices industry and other food processing industries are currently facing supply risks due to absence of harmonised standards across the country.
However, the Ministry of Law, which was looking into the matter, had sent the issue to the CCI though there was absence of consensus for the past two years. No development was made regarding formulation of national standards, registration and licensing of manufactures and trading houses in the country and conformity assessment that includes enforcement of standards across the country.
Taking notice of the issue, the CCI had decided to resolve constitutional and legal ambiguities, review Provincial Food Authorities Acts and suggest mechanism for enforcement of applicable technical regulations.
Following the 18th Amendment in the constitution and creation of food authorities and subsequent enforcement of different laws by provinces, the interprovincial trade and manufacturer of food items across the country were badly affected.
The PSQCA law has mandated the authority to include food and non-food items in Compulsory Certification Mark Scheme under which the authority has so far notified 105 mandatory items including 40 food items. In case of inspection/ licensing by provincial authorities, the corporate sector will also suffer for multiple rules being implemented in different provinces.
Published in Dawn, December 31st, 2019