PESHAWAR, Oct 29 (APP): Like other developing countries, Pakistan is also being faced with the monster challenge of overweight and obesity issues mostly contracted by people excessively consuming unhygienic and substandard food items that play havoc with human health.
The open sale of unsafe and substandard foods including burgers, shawarma, potato chips, snacks, beverages and other unhygienic food in markets, bazaars and vendor shops in Peshawar and its peripheries areas, especially in front of schools were adversely affecting the health of students and children.
Plenty of shops vendors food stalls can be seen at historic Qissa Khwani bazaar, Namak Mandai, Karimpura, Charsadda Road, Faqirabad, Hastnagri, Tehkal, Board bazaar and other localities that are selling unsafe cuisines and expired foods, exposing people to different diseases including obesity and stomach disorders.
“I have brought my son Ibrahim Khan (7) for a medical checkup after he complained about irritable bowel syndrome due to excessive eating of chips and snacks being sold openly in shops and markets in villages and towns of Peshawar and Nowshera districts without any check,” said Sumbal Riaz, a housewife of Pabbi tehsil while talking to APP.
“My son was in great pain during the last couple of days due to piles, irritable bowel syndrome and obesity problems diagnosed by doctors citing overeating of chips, snacks, high carbohydrate fatty food along with beverages. Now I am going to Peshawar for his proper treatment from specialist doctors,” she said with sobbing eyes.
Dr Sirzamin Khan, Head of the medical department of Government Hospital Pabbi Nowshera said that obesity and overweight mostly caused by eating unhygienic and substandard fast food was the fifth leading cause of global deaths.
Causing many non-communicable diseases (NCD), he said obesity contributes 60-70% of deaths in the world including in Pakistan and as per WHO report, the number of children aged five to 19 with obesity increased from 11 million in 1975 to 124 million in 2016 in the world due to consumption of junk food during school time.
He said that 30 percent of the world population was overweight while 44 percent of the burden of diabetes 23 percent of heart diseases and seven to 41 percent of certain cancers were attributed to overweight and obesity.
Dr Sirzamin said Pakistan has ranked 10th out of 188 countries with about 50 percent population being overweight or obese, and that according to the World Obesity Foundation report, 5.4 million school-aged children in Pakistan would be obese by 2030 if the unchecked sale and manufacturing of unsafe food including chips and snacks continued with such a high rate in markets.
Citing Pakistan Health Commission’s 2018 report, he said about 11 percent of children in the country were suffering from overweight and more than five percent of obesity while data compiled from hospitals revealed that 40 percent to 50 percent of children were either overweight or obese that was quite alarming and health policymakers need to take prompt measures for its prevention.
Dr Sirzamin said lack of attention to children’s food needs, the mushroom growth of digital and social media and limited sports events at union council and village levels had largely contributed to the rise of obesity cases in the country including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said overweight youth could easily develop diabetes, hypertension, metabolic syndromes, digestive disorders, and harmonic and health-related complications.
Recommending daily exercises and a healthy balanced diet besides sports, Dr Sirzamin said the business of chips and beverages needs to be regulated and sugary drinks and calories unsafe fast food should be avoided to protect our loved ones from fatal diseases including obesity.
Khan Ghalib, Spokesman of KP Food Safety and Halal Food Authority (KPFS&HFA) told the news agency that operation against unsafe and substandard foods was expedited across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where 136,690 inspections were conducted and 539,982 kilograms and litres of substandard food items discarded this year.
He said that thousands of litres of counterfeit beverages and adulterated milk were discarded after its detailed examination being not safe for human consumption.
Shah Rukh Ali Khan, Director General KP FS&HFA said zero tolerance has been adopted against elements involved in the sale and purchase of adulterated food items in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He said mobile food testing laboratories were established in all divisional headquarters with the latest technology testing equipment with the ability to test over 20 food items instantly.
The labs cover a range of food tests, including testing of milk, flour, edible oil, ghee, water, and other food items on the spot. He said the Govt has planned to establish such labs in all districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Shahrukh said the monitoring of food services in open markets, hotels and restaurants increased and special focus was being paid to bringing positive changes in the behaviour of the food handlers and owners for better quality assurance and food services to consumers.
The authority, set up under the KP Food Safety Authority Act of 2014, has hired volunteers to monitor food safety and quality, working alongside regular staff in the field for prompt action. KP Food Authority, operating under the province’s Health Department, is the second such regulatory body in the country after Punjab set up its Food Authority in 2011.
APP/ash-fam/taj (APP Feature Service)