KARACHI — Pakistani police said Friday that five children from a single family died after dining at a restaurant in the sprawling port city of Karachi, adding to growing national concern over public hygiene and the lax enforcement of food safety laws.

The children, aged 2 to 9, had dined with their family in Karachi’s business district. Their mother and aunt were also hospitalized early Friday morning and remained in critical condition later that day.

These and other recent deaths are sparking a nationwide outcry over food safety. Last November, two brothers died in Karachi after consuming food from an upscale restaurant.

In the city of Multan in Punjab Province, 15 people were hospitalized in January after eating food contaminated by lizards. In another incident last month, about 240 people suffered food poisoning at a wedding in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province.

The police said the family likely became ill after eating in Karachi, but that they were also investigating restaurants in towns of Baluchistan Province, where the family had stopped for lunch and snacks as it traveled to Karachi on Thursday.

“Police are tracking down samples of all the food that the family had consumed on their journey from Quetta to Karachi,” said Tahir Noorani, a senior police official.

The Karachi restaurant where the family dined has been sealed and the police have detained its employees for questioning.

Consumer rights activists have been pressing Pakistan’s government to strengthen provincial food authorities, which have a poor record of implementing hygienic standards.

Health hazards are increasing “due to the sale of unhygienically prepared food and drinks,” said Dr. Mirza Ali Azhar, a leader of the Pakistan Medical Association. “It is mainly because of the absence of required checks by relevant food-quality authorities,” he said.

Mir Zulfiqar Ali, a Karachi-based consumer rights activist, said that governments and political parties take food safety for granted and have failed to implement existing regulations.

“Our assemblies have become a graveyard of passed bills,” he said. “We want the implementation of laws to protect our children.”

Public hygiene in Karachi is also undermined by an overstressed infrastructure. Karachi is Pakistan’s largest city and one of the fastest growing urban centers in the world. A central government census put the population at nearly 15 million in 2017, although local officials say the true number is closer to 25 million, up from some 10 million two decades ago.

But its infrastructure has failed to keep up, with garbage lining the streets, sewage systems blocked and water failing to pour out from taps across the city.



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