Gutter oil used for cooking in China

China’s food safety problems have no better symbol than the illegal and utterly disgusting problem of gutter oil. Cooking oil is used heavily in Chinese food, so some street vendors and hole-in-the-wall restaurants buy cheap, black market oil that’s been recycled from garbage. You read that correctly. Enterprising men and women will go through dumpsters, trash bins, gutters and even sewers, scooping out liquid or solid refuse that contains used oil or animal parts. Then they process that into cooking oil, which they sell at below-market rates to food vendors who use it to cook food that can make you extremely sick.

A new documentary highlights problems with illegal “gutter oil,” which the government has unsuccessfully attempted to eradicate.

A video shot and released earlier this year by Radio Free Asia is making the rounds online today. The short documentary details the illegal production and sale of so-called “gutter oil,” a cooking oil made from restaurant sewer refuse and rotten animal fat that is refined and then sold, mostly to small restaurants and street food vendors. It’s part of a food safety crisis in China that The Atlantic News covered last year.

China’s streets are lined with food stalls and small restaurants, some of which would buy cheap, black market oil made from processing garbage that contains oil or animal parts. The oil is then sold at below-market rates to street vendors that use it to cook food that may taste delicious but could make you extremely sick, according to the Washington Post.

The practice is not new, and while the government has banned gutter oil, it has not been able to eradicate the practice, the Atlantic reported. Last year, there was a report on oil being made from slaughter house scraps.

Chinese authorities uncovered a gutter oil production ring that spanned 13 cities and over 100 people, who somehow acquired rotten animal parts and boiled down the fat into oil. The sting, which came after a five-month investigation, yielded 3,200 tons of the stuff; authorities estimated the black-market producers had already sold a stunning $1.6 million worth of their product.

Despite all these, food in China is delicious, and gutter oil typically is used in street food stalls or cheap, hole-in-the-wall dives. Many of China’s food restaurants still make use of good, healthy oil, and ensure the highest level of hygiene in food preparation.

We have absolutely no idea if this practice has reached the Philippines where there are a lot of Chinese restaurants. Hopefully, Australian authorities will always be vigilant in checking imported cooking oil from China and elsewhere. (Washington Post)