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February 22, 2012

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Bulk food oil still used in many city restaurants

ABOUT 30 percent of restaurants in Shanghai still use bulk food oil, which is subject to high food-safety risk, but the local watchdogs are working to stop its use by slashing its supply in the local market.

Gu Zhenhua, an official with Shanghai Food Safety Office, said yesterday that there are still hundreds of licensed food stores supplying bulk oil citywide.

The food-safety watchdog is teaming up with the commerce authority to stop the supply through legal efforts such as raising sanitary and quality thresholds for the oils allowed to be sold. Bulk oil would mostly fail such standards, industry experts said.

By the end of this year, no stores and markets should be selling bulk oil anymore, Gu told Shanghai Daily yesterday.

"When there's no supply anymore, restaurants will have to choose bottled or packaged oil instead," Gu said.

Food oil sold in bulk containers causes wide risks to food safety. Smaller eateries preferred using bulk oil because of flexible purchase quantity that helps with cost control.

"The plastic bulk containers are usually used repeatedly for a very long time and are open to high risk of contamination," said Chen Yaoshui, director with the Xuhui District FDA. "And the storage condition creates easy channels and great conveniences for manufacturers and dealers to mix the oil with substandard ones to grab higher profits."

Xuhui District takes action

FDA investigations showed "swill oil," made from grease ladled from restaurant gutters, had been mixed with bulk oil by underground oil producers.

The Xuhui District authority said it seized four dealers selling such dubious bulk oil last year. Tests proved the samples contained abnormally high levels of cholesterol, which suggested they contained oils that had been cooked repeatedly.

The dealers were ordered to stop selling the products. Now there are virtually no restaurants in Xuhui District using bulk oil after the district watchdogs succeeded in stopping the supply, officials said.

The food-safety authority is also resorting to higher technology to spot unsafe oil.

Officials said a quick-test device imported from Germany is now being introduced locally to help authorities crack down on restaurants using recycled or repeatedly cooked oils. Officials said the high-tech gadgets have raised accuracy and efficiency in tracking down unsafe oils.


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