LAHORE – The Utility Stores Corporation (USC) is playing with the lives of people by selling expired food items at its different outlets across the country, and regional managers are forcing the staff of these outlets to sell outdated edibles just to secure their commission.
USC officials confided to TheNation that the majority of utility stores branches in the country were currently selling outdated packed milk, juices, cooking oil / ghee, pickles and tea of different brands. “Not only outdated branded items of different companies are available on the counter for sale, but also other edibles including substandard flour, pulses, ghee and sugar are being sold without any check,” they alleged.
The officials, requesting anonymity, said that in the majority of cases, regional managers, who are responsible for handling the supply line of the USC, were forcing the lower staff at the outlets to sell outdated and unhygienic goods for their own vested interests. “This practice is underway for the last many years, with the provincial capital being no exception, under the direct supervision of the regional managers in their respective areas,” they said.
The officials further said that currently several expiry items were being sold openly at all the 55 utility stores outlets in the City and no one was there to check this practice because the controllers themselves were involved in this crime for the sake of commission from supplier companies, especially flour and sugar mills.
A survey of USC outlets in the City confirmed that currently different expired items – particularly packed / powdered milk, juices, tea, ghee, pickles, powder juice, toothpastes, salt, etc. – were being sold without any fear of being caught. The USC officials alleged that the expiry dates on the packets of these items were either erased / covered or tampered with; and a new expiry date was mentioned instead.
They informed that the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) had recovered a huge quantity of expired ghee from some USC outlets in Faisalabad about one week ago. “A factory had supplied 7.8 tons of expired ghee to the USC (Faisalabad Region) in April, and FIA officials recovered thousands of cartons from its outlets and warehouses.”
The officials further said that substandard flour and sugar were being sold at the majority of USC outlets and the regional managers were responsible for this. “The 20kg flour bag is usually less in weight and this is compensated by adding water to it,” they said.
Fahim, a customer at the USC Shadman branch, said that the quality of wheat flour being sold at USC stores was sub-standard, adding that many poor customers were willing to compromise on quality because of the difference in prices.
“The USC is providing some relief to the customers in terms of monetary benefits, yet it is playing with their health by selling substandard food items, particularly flour, pulses, rice, ghee, cooking oil, basin, red chilli and tea,” alleged Fahim, adding that most of the items being sold at USC outlets were either expired or of poor quality, while the concerned authorities were not taking the issue as seriously as it deserved.
Another customer named Ahsan alleged that the tea, ghee, flour, red chilli, pulses and other such items being sold at the USC AG Office branch were full of pebbles and dirt. “We are forced to buy unhygienic food items from USC outlets because we cannot afford to buy the same from the open market,” he admitted. Ahsan further alleged that the flour being sold at USC stores was normally of low quality, and its 20kg bag was usually 200 grams to 400 grams less in weight.
Wahid, a customer at the Mozang Road branch, said that apparently the USC was saving a few rupees of every customer, but by providing substandard foodstuff it was putting additional financial burden on their pockets.
The officials said that the sugar being sold at USC outlets was usually wet and full of dirt, and its 5kg packet weighed at least 100 grams less. “Although the USC managing director has ordered to return substandard or dirty sugar, we cannot oblige because of the fear of the regional manager concerned,” they added.