LAHORE: The Lahore High Court has ordered the Punjab Food Authority (PFA) and other government departments to adopt all available measures under law to preserve, conserve and manage excess and wastage of food.

“The Punjab government shall revise and amend existing laws if so required i.e. Punjab Pure Food Ordinance 1960, Punjab Pure Food Rules 2011 and Punjab Food Authority Act, 2011 with respect to keep a check on the amount of food being wasted by persons/organisations dealing with food businesses i.e. the producers, storage facilitators or distributors (restaurants, transporters etc),” said a ruling recently issued by Justice Jawad Hassan on a public interest petition moved by some lawyers.

“At least 40pc of the cooked food is wasted in Pakistan and even more food is wasted than consumed in Ramazan, on ceremonies of marriage as well as in restaurants etc which is also contrary to teachings of Islam and strictly prohibited,” argued Barrister Ahmad Pansota, Emaan Noor Bandial, Hafsa Ahmad and other lawyers in the petition.

The lawyers also argued that the wastage of food caused a host of social and environmental implications, including food shortage, which results in increase in food prices to alarming levels leading to inflation in the country.

Therefore, they said, by introducing proper regulations this food could be given to the needy and those who “don’t have food” at all instead of wasting it. They pointed out failure of the departments concerned in implementation of National Food Policy, 2017 wherein the federal government had expressed strong commitment for the realisation of Sustainable Development Goals as a national agenda.

In this case, the food department, on the court’s direction, finalised a draft of ‘Punjab Food Authority (Disposal of Excess Food) Regulation 2019’, which will be notified without delay and implemented strictly by the authorities concerned.

Under the regulations, food operators, including restaurants, caterers, supermarkets and all those who manufacture for sale, transport, store, distribute or import or export food, are instructed to donate excess food to donors who will further distribute it amongst the underprivileged.

This will, the judge observed, ensure equitable distribution of food with an added advantage of ensuing dignity of the person receiving the food on account of such re-distribution.

“The State is under a duty to ensure well-being of its people and providing those citizens with food, who do not have access to it and/or cannot afford. It is a primary obligation of the State, violation of which will breach the fundamental right of life, including the right of food,” he remarked.

He also ordered all the respondents to take steps to preserve, manage and conserve food wastage in Pakistan. He directed the authorities to inform and apprise the public and all the stakeholders through media regarding importance of preserving, conserving and managing excess food and the regulations, once notified.

The judge ordered the departments concerned to ensure establishment of a management system whereby food could be channelised to people in need through strict compliance of the relevant provisions of the Punjab Baitul Maal Act, 1991 and the Punjab Charities Act, 2018.

Published in Dawn, January 5th, 2020