Workers collect used cooking oil from a hot pot restaurant in Shanghai. (Photo/Xinhua)
Another scandal involving the improper use of waste cooking oil has erupted in China, with Henan Huikang Oil Company accused of selling a blend which included so-called gutter oil as normal soybean oil to 60 downstream pharmaceutical and animal feed enterprises.
Wu Gang, an industry insider, told Guangzhou's 21st Century Business Herald that gutter oil — usually processed from the kitchen waste of restaurants — is used mainly for the production of biodiesel, soap and other industrial products and cannot be added to edible oil products as it can pose an obvious health risk.
On Sept. 3, TRS Group announced that its subsidiary Zhongyuan Xiangda made seven purchases of soybean oil totaling 34 tons from Huikang from June 2009 to September 2010. Zhongyuan Xiangda tested the batches and confirmed that they qualified as soybean oil.
Scores of feed companies also made purchases from Henan Huikang.
The 21st Century Business Herald reports that the gutter oil used by Huikang in producing edible oil originated from Gelin Company, which used kitchen waste in producing feed oil.
Huikang purchased the feed oil at 8,100 yuan (US$1,275) per ton, 2,000 yuan (US$315) lower than soybean oil in the market, from Gelin. Huikang then blended the processed gutter oil with soybean oil and sold the product to its clients.
Prosecutors charge that from December 2007 until the outbreak of the scandal, Huikang had purchased 99.2 million yuan (US$15.6 million) of gutter oil from Gelin and sold their inferior product, pocketing 350 million yuan (US$55 million) of income.
The 21st Century Business Herald said that more than 60 pharmaceutical and feed enterprises knowingly or unknowingly purchased the inferior oil from Huikang as a raw material. Up to now, the authorities have yet to clarify whether the inferior edible oil of Huikang constitutes a hazard to human health. It is also questionable whether the addition of gutter oil to edible oil in feed production is punishable.
There is no law or regulation forbidding the addition of gutter oil to edible oil in pharmaceutical production. Previously, however government agencies have regulated that feed oil produced from gutter oil can be used in feed production.