Dubai: Social media users are questioning the standards of hygiene at restaurants in Pakistan after a Facebook post by a resident of Lahore has gone viral.
Haider Bokhari shared his experience of dining at a popular eatery. As he walked into the washroom, he was in for a surprise — he spotted the serving trays, one of which was currently on his table, being dried on the floor next to the WC.
In his Facebook post he highlights: “I went to the washroom but a chit of non-functional was pasted on it. Since I only had to wash my hands so I entered... Wooden trays like that on which my sandwich was served were placed right next to commode for drying since there was not enough space in kitchen. Washroom was perfectly functional. I felt betrayed and disgusted and left the restaurant.”
The eatery in question was a popular outlet located on Lahore’s MM Alam Road. Along with Bokhari’s post were pictures from the washroom of the popular chain, which has left social media users shocked. The post has been shared more than 10,400 times on Facebook and currently has over 1,200 comments on it.
Mir Kumayl Mehmood posted: “Bhai yay tu sirf aik hai abhi bohat say restraunts yay kam kar rahay hain (This is just one, many other restaurants are doing the same).️Good step taken.”
Usman Humayun posted: “Wow that’s disgusting. Why on earth would a resturant do that? Just put some nails on the wall and hang them. #Shame on you #ButlersChocolate #Pakistan #Lahore”
Mian Athar Jameel posted: “Most of the eateries in major cities are no different than this, their hygiene is always highly compromised.”
Usman Umar posted: “What is going on with Pakistani restaurants? People have to report such type of restaurants to food authorities. Pathetic.”
Rabia Basri wrote: “Utterly chaotic and pathetic state of hygiene and culinary etiquettes. Bathroom floor — serving trays, yuck. That’s why I never eat out much. Food is what you make yourself. Rest is just a joke. Eat healthy, stay healthy.”
After the social media uproar, the Punjab Food Authority (PFA) took control of the situation and Butlers Chocolate Cafe Lahore branch was shut.
On their Facebook page, they posted: “On a public complaint received on social media, an enquiry team of PFA confirmed the unhygienic/disgusting act pictured. The cafe on MM Alam Road closed down and owner called in person.”
Ali Moeen Nawazish, a Pakistani academic and columnist, posted a screengrab of a conversation he had with the director of public relations at PFA and wrote: “Punjab Food Authority has sealed the cafe in question, after the pictures posted today. They confirmed the pictures as well. Thank you social media for coming together.”
The standards of hygiene at restaurants have been a consistent issue in Pakistan. This post has come just months after the PFA’s claims of taking strict action against food business operators and eateries for violating food regulations, as stated in a report published by The Express Tribune, a Pakistan-based English daily.
In an interview with the paper, the PFA Director General Noorul Amin Mengal was quoted as saying: “The prime focus of these authorities is limited to quality of food items and hygiene.”
However, according to the PFA’s official website, they currently have 1,074 pending complaints against outlets in the Punjab province alone.
A 2017 report by Pakistan-based business magazine Pakistan & Gulf Economist states that 70 per cent adulterated food and 52 per cent adulterated mineral water was being sold in the market up until last year.
The sale of contaminated food or beverages is an offence in Pakistan, with heavy fines awarded to outlets, including the stores being closed. But, despite that, many food vendors continue to sell food items made from “substandard raw materials, such as contaminated water and inferior food colours, flavours, fats and oils”.
Sahar Butt posted on Facebook: “They [restaurants] are all the same when it comes to hygiene. That is why we try to eat as much at home as possible. And the times that we dine out and my kids like something that we have ordered, their first question is, can you make it at home? If I say yes, they ask me to make it at home from next time and if I say no, they ask me to watch the recipe on YouTube and make it at home. Alhamdulillah. I don’t trust any of the food outlets, restaurants, hotels in Pakistan no matter how big is the business or its name.”
The government of Pakistan has prescribed certain standards through Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) that are mandatory for manufacturers of food and food grade materials.
Despite this, in many cases, the people preparing the food do not follow some of the basic practices in restaurant kitchens, such as wearing gloves.
The issue doesn’t end at restaurants, but goes on to a bigger scale of production. In May, the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Food Safety and Halal Food Authority sealed eight factories for violating food safety rules, as stated in a report by Dawn, a Pakistani English-language newspaper.
One of the factories, producing a very popular herbal drink in Pakistan, was sealed for using stale and rotten fruits as ingredients.
The Facebook post by Haider Bokhari seems to have stirred the hornet’s nest. Can a situation that has gone unnoticed for years change due to the power of social media?