FOOD SAFETY

Bottoms up! Boss of 'gutter oil' firm drinks cup of cooking oil to prove it is safe

Boss of 'gutter oil' firm downs a cup of cooking oil, as Taiwan bans Hong Kong imports

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 September, 2014, 1:46pm
UPDATED : Friday, 12 September, 2014, 2:54am

Taiwan has banned all imports of Hong Kong lard oil and vowed to carry out "100 per cent inspection" of all cooking oil.

A trading company in the city is suspected of having supplied lard oil - made from pork fat but intended for animal feed or industrial use - to the island and passing it off as fit for human consumption.

Hong Kong's Centre of Food Safety is seeking legal advice on whether to take criminal action against the company, Globalway.

Watch: Boss of Taiwanese 'gutter oil' firm drinks oil to prove it is safe

But lawmaker Ronnie Tong Ka-wah, a barrister, said the Trade Descriptions Ordinance may not apply in this case as it protected only buyers in Hong Kong.

The buyer of the lard oil, Taiwanese firm Chang Guann, is believed to have mixed it with "gutter oil" recycled from restaurants and leather processors. Yesterday the firm said it did not know the lard oil was unsafe for human consumption.

The firm's chief, Yeh Wen-hsiang, drank a cup of his company's cooking oil to prove it was safe in a dramatic public apology. "Not even a drop of our oil is unsuitable [for consumption]," he stressed as he got down on his knees and bowed in apology.

Yeh also faulted Taiwanese authorities for not setting strict standards on imported lard oil. "We had to set our own standards, which we believe are strict," he said.

The director of Hong Kong's Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, Vivian Lau Lee-kwan, said the proprietor of Globalway had been reached, and some documents were taken from the firm's office.

When asked if she thought Hong Kong's reputation had been damaged, Lau said it was only an "isolated incident", as 450 edible oil samples taken last year had passed safety tests.

Not even a drop of our oil is unsuitable [for human consumption]
Yeh Wen-hsiang

Chiang Yu-mei, the deputy director general of Taiwan's Food and Drug Administration, announced yesterday: "We will no longer accept import applications for lard oil from Hong Kong." All other cooking oil from Hong Kong, Macau and the mainland must be 100 per cent inspected, "batch by batch" to ensure it was safe, she added.

According to the administration, Chang Guann had imported 2,385 tonnes of lard oil from Globalway since 2008.

Hundreds of food manufacturers, bakeries and restaurants are believed to have used Chang Guann's oil, including Maxim's, 7-Eleven, and Starbucks outlets. Some of these businesses have pulled possibly affected products off their shelves.

Globalway could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Additional reporting by Shirley Zhao