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Investors Urged Govt To Stop Punjab Food Authority from ‘illegal’ Implementation of TTS

ISLAMABAD: All leading associations of multinational/ foreign companies, manufacturers, trade bodies and overseas investors have jointly approached the federal government to stop Punjab Food Authority (PFA) from ‘illegal’ implementation of the track-and-trace system (TTS) on food products.

Foreign investors and big corporate entities/ manufacturers are unanimous over the required approval of the Pakistan Standards Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) for implementing track-and-trace system of the PFA. The method to introduce a track-and-trace system should be consonant with the spirit of the Council of Common Interests’ (CCI) decision to harmonize food standards and the mechanisms to enforce those standards, multinational companies added.

In this regard, Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OICC), Pakistan Business Council (PBC) and chambers and commerce including Rawalpindi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (RCCI) have collectively raised their voice against the PFA’s new QR coding system for food products.

Keeping in view the sensitivity of the situation, the Prime Minister Office and the Board of Investment (BOI) have also intervened to stop the PFA from implementing the said system till fulfilment of legal formalities under the decisions of the CCI.

According to these all top associations, based on Council of Common Interests’ (CCI) decision of May 2021, any food products’ label and its contents are supposed to follow guidelines that are supposed to be agreed at the national level for uniformity. Hence, the notification to incorporate a QR coding system for food products needs to be presented and agreed upon at the National Standards Steering Committee (NSSC), headed by the PSQCA, in spirit of the decision taken by the Prime Minister in the Council of Common Interests (CCI).

In a communication to the Director General, Punjab Food Authority, Lahore, the Overseas Investors Chamber of Commerce and Industry raised the issue that as per PFA notification manufacturing facilities of certain food categories should conduct the extensive exercise of installing a QR code system in six months for the sake of food safety and to enable the PFA to track and trace food products manufactured in Punjab.

As the largest chamber of commerce in terms of revenue generation in Pakistan, the OICCI believed that incorporating any element such as a QR code or a barcode on product is part of its label.

The CCI decision stated: “The CCI decided that in order to further improve the Ease of Doing Business and harmonize quality and standards across the country, the provinces shall adopt National Standards formulated by Pakistan Standards & Quality Control Authority (PSQCA). Labelling and Certification Marks logo shall also remain with Federal Government/ PSQCA,” it added.

In a letter to the PFA, the Pakistan Business Council (PBC) is of the considered view that introducing an element in the form of a QR code or a barcode on the product is part of the product’s label. As discussed in the last meeting of the NSSC, the content of the label of a food product and guidelines for its design should be agreed to at the national level for uniformity. Therefore, the measure to introduce a QR coding system for food products should be presented and duly agreed to at the NSSC, prior to its roll-out.

The PBC appreciate the intent of PFA to combat counterfeiting of food products, which are manufactured outside the formal economy; hence, causing revenue loss to the exchequer and posing health risks to the consumer. However, the method to introduce a track-and-trace system should be consonant with the spirit of the CCI decision to harmonize food standards and the mechanisms to enforce those standards.

The PBC requested that PFA bring the agenda point of introducing a QR coding system to the next meeting of NSSC for discussion.

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