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Safeguarding the Food Security

OpinionSafeguarding the Food Security
By: Sajjad Hussain Nekokara
The writer is a lawyer

Ensuring food security, encompassing both quality and quantity, is crucial for the well-being and prosperity of nations worldwide. Adequate access to quality, nutritious food is fundamental to human existence. It is a basic human right, and a pre-requisite for achieving economic and developmental sustainability. 

According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), food security exists when all people have uninterrupted physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs. This comprehensive definition underscores the importance of both: ensuring an adequate supply of food and guaranteeing its safety and nutritional value.

Owing to persistent neglect by successive governments, Pakistan is among those countries where significant number of populace faces food insecurity and nutritional deficiency. According to Global Hunger Index 2022 report, owing to armed conflicts, climate change and corona virus, up to 828 million people were forced to go hungry worldwide. The latest GHI ranks Pakistan 99th out of 121 countries with a score of 26.1. According to the report, Pakistan has serious level of hunger. Similarly, International Food Security Assessment 2021-31 warns that food insecurity in Pakistan is expected to reach 38% in the next decade.

Such a dismal situation demands serious institutional and structural efforts to eliminate hunger and food insecurity in Pakistan. As it stands now, in Pakistan, bodies such as the Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) and the Punjab Food Authority (PFA) are playing a crucial role in setting and enforcing food safety standards and ensuring compliance.

The role Punjab Food Authority (PFA) is playing in ensuring safety and quality of food in Punjab warrants mention. The Director General Punjab Food Authority has brought in a new regime of meticulous checking and surveillance in the province. Food quality testing labs have been established. Testing sets forth monitoring and controlling quality parameters throughout the production, distribution, and consumption stages. Moreover, PFA under guidance and vision of the incumbent DG is running “Eat Safe Food Campaigns” for public awareness. This efficient quality monitoring framework is a blueprint for other provinces to follow.

Nevertheless, challenges persist. Lack of enforcement of food safety standards across the food supply chain, food adulteration and limited access to nutritional food due to limited resources, corruption and inadequate infrastructure are common in suburbs and densely populated areas. In addition to this, Urban Centres other than Lahore lack aforementioned parameters and standards.

To tackle these challenges, a consistent multi-sectoral approach is imperative. The authorities can resort to or make use of following suggestions to fight food and nutritional insecurity: a) Implement blockchain technology in the food supply chain to enhance transparency and traceability,

b) Introduce food testing labs equipped with advanced technology to expedite on-the-spot analysis to detect adulterants and contaminants, c) Promote vertical farming and urban agriculture initiatives to increase access to fresh produce in urban areas, reducing reliance on imported and potentially adulterated food, d) Combat micronutrient deficiencies through incentivising bio-fortification of staple crops, e) Improve nutrition education for utilisation of important nutrients and encourage wise food choices, f) Promote innovation to curb multidimensional global challenges to food security, and g) inclusion of all stakeholders to form national policies to keep a check on resources and prices of staple crops.

In conclusion, food security, in terms of both the quantity and quality, is of paramount importance. Safety and quality are as significant as accessibility of food. By strengthening food safety regulations, improving agricultural practices, promoting nutrition education, and addressing underlying structural issues, we can build a more resilient and equitable food system that promotes the health and well-being of all.

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