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Pakistan needs a systematic approach to combat poor food quality: experts

ISLAMABAD: Insufficient intake of balanced diet rich in proteins, vitamins and micronutrients (Fe, Zn), folates, and unaffordability/inaccessibility to food rich in nutrition, along with adulteration, lack of education about healthy food and imbalanced food habits are main reasons for stunted growth in children and due to Iron deficiency anemia in women, which is increasing at alarming rate, said National and International experts while speaking at International Webinar on “A Way Forward to Food Quality and Food Safety”, held on online.

More than 1000 participants attended the event virtually. The event was organized by University of Agriculture, Faisalabad and Pakistan Agricultural Scientists Forum (PAS Forum) in collaboration with, Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce & Industries (FPCCI), National Alliance for Safe Food (NAFS), UK-Pakistan Science and Innovation Global Network (UPSIGN), COMSTECH and Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD).

Mian Abdul Rasheed from FPCCI inaugurated the event by offering full support from the industry to work with academia to address the food quality crisis in Pakistan through innovations. Prof. Khurshid Hasanain, Advisor COMSTECH emphasized the need for collaboration among Muslim world to tackle the food quality crises and learn from each other. 

Dr. Omer Mukhtar from PCSIR Labs highlighted the nutritional status of Pakistan population indicating severe issue of micronutrient malnutrition in Pakistan. Food fortification, supplementation and biofortification are some of solutions to address the challenges, highlighted by International speakers, Professor Nicola Lowe from UCLAN University, Dr. Jalil Miyan from University of Manchester and Dr. Khalid Mahmood, UPSIN/Rothamsted Research.

Access to safe food free from pathogens, chemicals, pesticide residues is another challenge which need to be addressed through transformation in food systems especially food value chain, and promoting the use of fair & clearly written food labels. Pakistan faces the challenge of access to cold chain that add another layer affecting the shelf life of perishable food products that includes milk, meat and fresh vegetables, noted the experts.

An important highlight of the webinar panel discussion was how farmers and consumers could take advantage of the low-cost technologies to enhance the shelf life and quality of the food products. There is need to create a culture of responsibility on maintaining the minimum food standards from farm to fork. The consumer awareness could play important role to implement such change in the food system, discussed the panelists.

The panel discussion was facilitated by Dr. Shinawar Ali, from Punjab University and chaired by Dr. Khalid Mahmood along with panelist Prof. Tahir Zahoor, Dr. Muhammad Riaz and Muhammad Awais Khan from National Alliance for Food Safe also emphasized the need for combining research, industry and policy making to deliver safe food to consumers.

There is need to work together including private sector under the guideline provided by national and international scientists on innovative technologies and provide awareness to farmers as well as consumers, said, Dr. Abdul Wakeel, President Pakistan Agricultural Scientists Forum.

Professor Anas Sarwar Qureshi, Vice Chancellor Agri-Varsity who was also the chief guest of the event, stressed that biofortification seems to be very sustainable strategy to address the micronutrient malnutrition in developing countries with predominant cereal based diet. Participants applauded the webinar that such kind of forum should be arranged with maximum interaction of researchers, stakeholders and policy people to discuss the challenges and solutions.

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