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November 16, 2013

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Chefs made oil from diners’ dregs

TWO local Sichuan-style restaurant chefs have been arrested for using the dregs from customers’ leftovers to make “red oil,” prosecutors said yesterday.

And when confronted, they said this was a common “secret” among chefs in the southwestern Sichuan Province, which is famed for its fiery food.

The chefs, surnamed Zhang and Wang, are said to have taken oil and soup bases from diners’ dishes to make red oil at a branch of Happiness 131, on 279 Xizang Road, between June and July this year.

They were discovered by the Huangpu District Food and Drug Administration and handed over to police.

Prosecutors said Zhang, the chief chef at the restaurant, asked Wang to filter oil and soup bases from customers’ leftovers and cook them again, after adding onions and ginger, to make red oil.

Wang then used this dregs-based oil to cook food, such as grilled fish, for new customers in order to save costs, prosecutors said.

The restaurant chain, which has branches in Huangpu, Changning and Jing’an districts, was also found to use recycled oil in other outlets.

Under Chinese Criminal Law, anyone producing or selling food using used kitchen oil — often known as swill oil, as it is sometimes ladled from drains — can be sentenced to up to five years in prison, plus fines.

If there is serious harm to health, the penalty can be up to 10 years in prison.

In March, two Shanghai restaurant owners were each sentenced to three and a half years in prison and fined 200,000 yuan (US$32,820) for using swill oil in hotpot soup bases.

All restaurants and food producers are required to sell used kitchen oil to licensed collectors under regulations introduced in March.

This states that any individual or company illegally involved in collecting or processing used kitchen oil will face administrative fines up to 100,000 yuan — up from 30,000 yuan previously.

Those involved in serious cases may face criminal charges, under the regulations.


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