A large number of people keep getting sick after visiting different restaurants in the city. While they lie clutching their stomachs, blaming the bad food, few are aware that they have a right to check the ingredients being used to make their food and to take restaurants to a consumer court for providing bad or substandard food.
There is a Consumer Protection Council which by law is bound to entertain complaints relating to unhygienic food in restaurants, including those served in international food chains. Under the law, restaurants are regularly raided and penalised for selling expired food items. Consumers of any goods in the market have the right to check the quality, potency, purity, standard and price of commodities which they are buying under the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) Consumers Protection Act 2015.
According to section-I of clause-16 of the act, “if any consumer’s right has been violated, the person responsible for such infringement shall be punished with rigorous imprisonment which shall not be less than seven days or with fine which shall not be less than Rs10,000 or with both.”
Furthermore, the law states that a person who violates the right of consumers shall also be liable to compensate them or provide relief as may be determined by the court. Despite the law, very few people are aware of the law or file complaints about substandard goods and commodities available in the market, particularly the food stuffs.
The Peshawar District Administration (PDA) had on Sunday raided local and international foods chains in the city and arrested their managers for selling expired items in their outlets. Peshawar Additional Assistant Commissioner (AAC) Tariq Mehmood, who led the team, told The Express Tribune that while the raids were routine, the shocking thing was that some international food chains were selling expired food items.
When asked about why they were doing so, Mehmood expressed his surprise how the majority of customers frequenting such outlets were educated but did not check the condition in which their food was being prepared.
“The educated lot should bear more responsibility than the common person to check the standard and quality of the food before ordering,” Mehmood said, as he urged every one visiting any food outlet to inspect the kitchens to see if the cleanliness is up to the standard.
The PDA official said that they routinely inspect standards at restaurants but the sale of unhygienic food can only be curtailed if more citizens cooperate with the authorities and check the kitchens. When asked about the complaints redressal mechanism, he said that the district administration has a system and that every consumer can lodge a complaint against any food chain in the city.
“The chief minister complaint cell is also available for lodging complaints, while the consumer can also file complaints on the district commissioner’s Facebook page,” he added.
Mohammad Ali, a Peshawar resident who frequents food chains in the city, told The Express Tribune that when they find their order to be irregular, and ask to inspect the kitchen, they are not allowed inside.
“They [food chains] have even placed warnings on the kitchen door stating ‘unauthorised people, except staff members, are not allowed’ to enter the kitchen,” Ali said, adding, he was not aware that consumers can check kitchens of restaurants’.
According to the consumer’s protection law, any person can complain against purchasing sub-standard items within 10 days of buying the items and an authority such as the district administration can take action accordingly.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2017.