The Punjab Food Authority (PFA) seems to be on a cleansing spree in the city of Lahore. More than 25 raids on different food outlets just this week – that we know of – in which restaurants were sealed, fined or served warning notices, and in some cases even had their managements arrested on the spot, have led to a wave of fear among restaurants, confectioners, bakers and other food producers all over the city.
Restaurateurs and manufacturers of food items are sure to be on their toes, especially since during a raid on July 22, a PFA team led by Operations Director Ms Ayesha Mumtaz sealed US-based fast food chain Fatburger’s restaurant on MM Alam Road.
A post on the PFA’s Facebook page, which actively catalogues all such raids with pictures for the sake of public awareness, said the team found “spoiled meat with pungent & off odour” at Fatburger, along with spoiled vegetables in the cold storage and rancid oil being used for frying.
Yes, Fatburger. Bang smack in the middle of Lahore’s favourite place to eat out — MM Alam Road. And let’s not forget that while the fast food chain’s headquarters are located in Beverly Hills, California and it has a number of branches around the world including those in Indonesia, China, UAE and Canada, the one in Lahore is the largest in size by far. This fact was also proudly advertised when the restaurant opened 2 years ago.
The heavy fine handed out to Freddy’s Café, once again one of the more prominent fixtures of MM Alam Road, was perhaps the second-most shocking development this week. The reasons shared by the PFA on its Facebook page were “dirty freezers, fungus growth on freezer, greasy shelves, raw and cooked food together & left overs [sic] in freezer, rusted trays, meat mincer machine and unlabelled stored edibles”.
I agree with you wholeheartedly if you’re thinking ‘yuck!’
Avari Hotel, one of the top hotels in the city located on main Mall Road, was also paid a visit by the PFA team. The Punjab Food Authority inspected its kitchens and imposed a PKR 75,000 fine, while the bakery section was fined PKR 25,000 for improper storage inside chillers and usage of blue drums with no expiry dates mentioned.
Other restaurants inspected by the Punjab Food Authority this week were Lahore Cafeteria located on Mall Road, and two outlets of Fri-Chicks, one on Sanda Road near MAO College and the other on Thokar Niaz Baig.
According to the PFA, Lahore Cafeteria did not have hand sanitizer available for workers as they were found hand-washing the dirty floor and washing area in the kitchen. Storage of raw chicken and cooked food was improper and poorly managed. The authority even checked the workers’ nails, as it is its wont to do, and found that they were not properly trimmed and cleaned. Moreover, wasted food was not being properly disposed of as a considerable amount was found in the freezers.
Similar proof of unhygienic conditions prevalent behind the scenes at the Fri-Chicks restaurants got the one on Sanda Road sealed and the one on Thokar Niaz Baig heavily fined. Gourmet Bakers in Shalimar was also heavily fined while Gourmet Restaurant in Wahga Town was sealed due to expired cream cakes, expired sweets and dairy products. The labels on the cream cakes had also apparently been tampered with, according to the PFA.
The Wahga Town branch of Doce bakery was also fined PKR 70,000 because of poor hygiene, flies, rotten vegetables, poor storage of sweets (they were placed on the floor), uncovered food, and damaged freezers.
Zakir Tikka Restaurant, a popular local brand in the world of barbeque, was also sealed because of its poor premises and personnel hygiene as well as dirty freezers.
Other than restaurants, packaged food producers were also penalized with official warnings, fines or closures because of sub-standard working and hygiene. Places like Haidri Restaurant (Bund Road) and Malmo Sweets (Thokar Niaz Baig) were sealed, while Mian Khalid Chips in Ravi Town and the cafeteria of Services Hospital were given stern warnings.
This inspection spree is spreading fiercely across Lahore, from Gawal Mandi to Faisal Town, and the authorities are sparing no one when it comes to unhygienic conditions and unsafe food preparation – not just the small-scale dhabas or local big names but also fast food giants running franchises of international chains, such as KFC and Fatburger.
I cannot stress how welcome this drive is. Let’s hope authorities in other provinces start conducting similar drives, because this not only benefits the consumers but also greatly and positively affects the quality of products and the health of the workers.
The Punjab Food Authority rightfully deserves applause for its efforts to raise the standards of the food we, the people, are being served. Thank you, PFA!