Gutter oil crackdown difficult without national standard

By Jin Jianyu Published: 2011-12-14 18:28:00

A worker seperates oil from water at a kitchen waste disposal company called Lusen in Foshan, south China's Guangdong Province, Sept. 22, 2011.  Photo: Xinhua

Officials said that the lack of a nationwide testing standard for gutter oil has made their crackdown campaign all the more difficult, while the Ministry of Health (MOH) was still soliciting public opinion on the gutter oil standard for the third time since Tuesday.

"It is hard for us to tell the difference between gutter oil and standard cooking oil without an efficient testing standard, which makes the crackdown harder," said Xu Chenglei, an official at the Ministry of Public Security, according to a story on the Beijing News.

"Currently, there is no standard laboratory testing that can be conducted to differentiate the two," a health inspector from the local bureau of Health Inspection and Supervision in Beijing, who refused to be named, told the Global Times on Wednesday.

The health inspector also said rapid testings for peroxide and the acid value are currently the only two available tests which can be conducted in order to evaluate the quality of cooking oil on the spot. However, the problem is that the tests cannot identify cooking oil made from restaurant leftovers.

The inspector went on to say that only the police are authorized on gutter oil crackdown. All the health supervision authority can do is check whether restaurants have used waste oil rather than seize collectors and producers.

"We will resort to stricter supervision methods to the smaller private collectors as they are the ones who have been found to use gutter oil more than corporate-run businesses do," he added.

The China National Center for Food Safety Risk Assessment of the MOH began to solicit public opinions again over identification methods on Tuesday. The previous five methods solicited during their second effort back in October failed to efficiently identify gutter oil, according to Deng Haihua, a MOH spokesman.

As of mid November, over 20 new testing methods had been sent to the center since October, the Beijing News reported.

"We cannot technically identify gutter oil even if we know in advance that what we have tested is indeed gutter oil," Chen Junshi, a researcher at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, was reported as saying, adding that what they really need is a specific and reliable method.

Chen Tao, a lawyer with the Beijing Junyong Law Firm, suggested that it should be made a crime to produce and sell poisonous and harmful products instead of classifying it under the crime of producing and selling fake products to combat the manufacturing of gutter oil.

Chen said the former crime could be more effective in preventing the manufacturing and selling of gutter oil, as it has not established the illegal selling volume at a minimum of 50,000 yuan ($7,880), which is stipulated by the latter crime. 

According to a statement released Monday by the Ministry of Public Security, it has solved more than 120 cases on the illegal production and sale of gutter oil since August. During the campaign, over 700 suspects were detained and 60,000 tons of gutter oil was seized.

Xie Jianing contributed to this story.

Listed below is the contact number and email address released by the Ministry of Health on Tuesday which is to be used for gathering public opinions on different methods for testing for gutter oil.

Tel: 010-67776790

Gutter oil




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