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July 16, 2011

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City probes reused cooking oil

The city's food safety authorities yesterday started to investigate a network involving illegal sales of swill oil - cooking oil scooped out of eatery drains and processed into edible oil - after a chain of swill oil collection, transport, processing and sales was exposed by local media.

According to Labor Daily, a migrant couple at their 40s in Xuhui District is one of the leading collectors of kitchen waste in the city.

They told Labor Daily that they have been involved in the business for over 20 years and were never caught.

"We pay 25 yuan (US$3.1) for a small barrel of kitchen waste and 35 yuan for a big barrel," the wife said. "Kitchen waste can be used to feed pigs (which is also banned in the city) and make swill oil, which is quite profitable."

She said she collected kitchen waste from small dealers all over the city and sold it wholesale.

The Labor Daily reporter followed a truck that picked up kitchen waste from the couple and witnessed it driven to a fish pond in Songjiang District.

The pond owner burned the kitchen waste to extract swill oil.

"We saw trucks running away with barrels of oil," a neighbor told the reporter.

Another buyer of kitchen waste was the owner of a small pig barn in a village in Fengxian District. According to the neighbors, the owner from Anhui Province used the pig barn as a cover for swill oil production.

"They boil kitchen waste for oil at midnight every day," an elderly farmer said.

"A smell like bad fish spread all over the village. The owner collects oil and feeds pigs with what is left in the boiler. It is so disgusting."

People said they have complained to the authorities about the poor smell and environmental pollution, but that officials just came for a quick look and did nothing.

"A dealer coming here to buy swill oil said the oil is sold to small restaurants and stalls selling breakfast, especially deep-fried dough sticks," a neighbor surnamed Zhou said.

Swill oil is not a new issue in the city. But the government has failed to take effective measures to stop the illegal business that can seriously harm people's health.

Local lawmakers and an advisory body have urged the government to stop charging eateries for kitchen waste processing in order to cut the source of swill oil. Such suggestions have gone nowhere.

Lin Lihua, a member of the city's advisory body who filed such a proposal in January, said: "Most eateries, especially in middle and small size, don't report the kitchen waste, for which they must pay the government for waste collection and processing with 60 yuan per barrel. But illegal swill oil owners can pay 4,200 yuan for 1 ton of kitchen waste. That's why people sell kitchen waste."


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