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December 22, 2018

Sindh Food Authority’s action in cantonment area challenged

Karachi

December 22, 2018

The counsel of a private restaurant’s owner, who is facing criminal proceedings with regard to the deaths of two minor brothers on November 11 due to consumption of substandard food, has challenged the action of the Sindh Food Authority (SFA) in the cantonment area.

During the hearing of the owner’s petition against the sealing of his warehouse in DHA, his counsel argued in the Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday that the food authority’s rules are not applicable in the cantonment area. He said the SFA’s action is beyond its jurisdiction, as the restaurant falls within the jurisdiction of the cantonment area.

The SHC’s division bench headed by Justice Mohammad Ali Mazhar observed that the question of law cannot be decided without hearing the views of the federal and provincial law officers.

The court issued notices to the federal and provincial law officers to assist the court in the matter of the SFA’s jurisdiction and its action in the next hearing scheduled for January 11. The food authority had sealed the warehouse following the deaths of the siblings and the hospitalisation of their mother after having dinner at the restaurant.

The SFA had earlier told the high court that E. coli was found in the imported expired meat samples seized from the warehouse, and that food poisoning had caused the children’s deaths.

The food authority’s director stated in his counter affidavit that the restaurant owner kept 70 to 80 kilograms of expired meat at the warehouse in Zamzama DHA-V, and that despite the fact that the meat had expired in 2015, it was kept until November 13, 2018.

The director claimed that the restaurant used expired meat regularly. He said the restaurant management failed to provide invoices for the imported meat, their total weight, details of their consumption and the reasons for not disposing of the expired meat for the past three years.

The SFA said that there is no law in Pakistan or in any other country that allows meat or any other product to be used three years after its expiry date. He said the laboratory tests conducted by the SFA showed the presence of E. coli, adding that this generally indicates direct or indirect faecal contamination, whereas a substantial amount of E. coli suggests a general lack of cleanliness in handling and proper storage.

He told the court that the restaurant owner had first denied the presence of a warehouse, but it was later discovered with the help of an informant. He said the expired meat and bottles of squash were being transported after the food poisoning issue came to light.

The SFA official said the petitioner was running a business without registration or possessing a valid licence, adding that the restaurant owner had neither come to court with clean hands nor had his fundamental rights been violated, because the food authority has acted within the parameters of the relevant laws.

The director said that a direct complaint against the petitioner is being adjudicated at the relevant trial court and the matter for the unsealing of the premises is also pending in that court.

He added that the Supreme Court had also taken a suo motu notice, which is pending in the court.