ISLAMABAD: The Senate’s Standing Committee on Science and Technology on Monday was informed that tea/coffee whiteners were not injurious to health. The committee met under the chairmanship of Senator Osman Saifullah Khan at the Parliament House. The meeting was attended among others by Senator Abdul Qayyum, Senator Mian Ateeq Shaikh, Senator Momin Khan Afridi, Senator Sajid Mir, Secretary Ministry of Science and Technology Yasmin Masood, Pakistan Standards and Quality Control Authority (PSQCA) Director General Muhammad Khalid and representatives from Pakistan Dairy Association (PDA).The committee was informed that the PSQCA had a total of 22,368 standards combining all developed and adopted standards. The PSQCA DG told the meeting that tea whiteners were not yet on the mandatory list of standards and PSQCA was in the process of consultation for formulating standards in this regard. The chairperson made it clear that the committee had not barred the PSQCA from carrying out its work or from formulating regulations. The chairperson asked the authority to continue its work.The committee was informed by the PSQCA DG that the authority had a total of 181 technical committees. “All stakeholders are invited to be present whenever a standardising proposal is considered. The authority does not impose its decisions and every matter is decided after consultation and consensus. Tea whiteners worldwide are either composed of dairy fat, or vegetable fat or a combination of both. In Pakistan, the third category is being used and a fine balance is being ensured,” he said. An independent observer and specialist from the field, Syed Ibrar Hussain, told the meeting that Pakistan utilized 1.8 to 2 billion tonnes of regulated milk and 8-9 billion tonnes of unregulated milk. “Around 200 billion cups of tea are being consumed daily that are worth Rs 5.5 billion,” he said. Representatives from Pakistan Dairy Association told the meeting that tea whiteners were not injurious to health and were an alternative to the sale of unregulated loose milk in Pakistan.The representatives explained that tea or coffee whiteners were an established category across developed countries for years and complied with international food laws. “In Pakistan, tea whiteners are also compliant with PSQCA standards,” they said. The meeting was informed that tea whiteners consisted of vegetable fats, milk solid non-fats, sugar and permissible food additives. “The percentage of vegetable fat in tea whiteners is 6.5% as compared to 3.5% of packaged milk. The percentage of milk solid non-fats is 3% as compared to 8.5% of packaged milk,” the meeting was told. Prof Dr Javaid Aziz Awan, former Department of Food Technology chairman, and Prof Dr Tahir Zahoor, the National Institute of Food Science and Technology director general, represented the Pakistan Society of Food Scientists and Technologists. They were invited by the committee to provide their independent technical and scientific views on the standards and safety of tea whiteners.They said that vegetable fats were a healthy option as they contained no cholesterol and provided added stability to the product.To a question about the appropriate labeling of tea whiteners to clearly distinguish it from milk, the committee was informed by the PSQCA DG that the matter would be discussed in National Standards Committee. The committee members also listened to the concerns of the Pakistan Dairy Association members over the need for harmonization of food standards at federal and provincial level, double registration, overlapping jurisdiction of PSQCA and provincial food authorities.Published in Daily Times, October 17th 2017.