China Cracks Down On Reused Oil

If the Chinese government is effective in its crackdown during its latest food-safety scandal, there might be a huge market there for grease traps, disposers and waste-hauling truck services. Recycled food oil—known in China as “gutter oil” because it is scooped up from sewage drains or collected at restaurant back doors—is apparently being used widely in the country’s eateries.

China’s State Council issued an order July 19 stating that the black-market trade posed "serious potential food-safety risks." It vowed to crack down on "refined restaurant waste finding its way back to dinner tables through illegal channels."

According to the Associated Press, recycled oil is most widely used in the country’s most popular eateries—hole-in-the-wall mom-and-pop restaurants tucked into alleys or by roadsides. Peter Leedham, managing director of the Suzhou office of the food testing company Eurofins Technology Service, told the AP that "gutter oil" was mainly found "at the bottom end of the market but with such frequency that it is something that’s a great worry to the Chinese government at the moment."

Last year, under pressure from the public and its global trade partners, China enacted a tough food safety law, promising harsh penalties for makers of tainted products. The recycled oil is unlikely to pose any threat outside of China; the country consumes more food oil than it can produce and imports the rest.

The government ordered inspections of oil being used at restaurants, school cafeterias, work canteens and kitchens at construction sites. Businesses found to be using recycled oil would be forced to close temporarily or lose their business licenses. Those selling the oil could be criminally prosecuted.

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