The ubiquitous use of ‘gutter oil’ in Chinese cooking is very real, and recent news articles show the public are increasingly concerned. The government has long been fighting with the manufacturers of this deadly substance, but so far the problem has been persistent.
For those unfamiliar with the term, China Daily provides an explanation:
“The term “gutter oil” usually refers to oil collected by using three illegal methods — oil skimmed from kitchen wastewater, oil reused several times by a kitchen (such as from a deep-fat fryer) and oil extracted from animal fat.”
Recently, however, there have been a few modifications to that definition. It has been claimed that the oil accounts for one-tenth of China’s cooking oil; a shocking video has been recently released, showing that some gutter oil is collected from underground waste; Shanghaiist provides a good description:
“First, a woman harvests slop from a manhole and then takes it to a processing plant where it’s combined with rotted animal parts, and readied for the wok.”
After the waste is turned into a nice yellow substance, the one that we all refer to as cooking oil, it is sold to different caterers, who extensively use it in their cooking. Mostly, it is believed that street food should be avoided, but there are plenty of other places using it.
To get a sense of the harm gutter oil is doing to our bodies, it is worth considering the Shanghaiist‘s claim that, “gutter oil has seen positive use as an alternative fuel source for Shanghai buses.” Do we really want to be eating this stuff? No, we don’t.
The matter was put on the agenda in 2011 when a series of arrests were conducted around the country. As a result, public awareness began to rise. It was even claimed, at one point, that the gutter oil industry was under control. However, over time, more and more cases have come to light.
Last month CCTV reported on the arrest of 16 people who were operating in black market gutter oil production worth 60 million RMB:
“Sixteen defendants stand charged of profiting from the manufacturing of gutter oil, selling fake and substandard products, as well as manufacturing and selling toxic and hazardous food. The amount of money involved goes as high as 60 million yuan, or almost 10 million U.S. dollars.”
It was one of the largest cases of gutter oil production on record. As there have been more arrests, a cynical public have even claimed the oil is an inevitable part of Chinese food cooking and that it will never be possible to wipe out completely. Such defeatist attitudes are not good for the nation’s health, and someone, somewhere needs to have the stomach to believe this industry can be thrown into the gutter for good.
This video represents how gutter oil is made from waste:
Image courtesy via flickr.com