Results of Hong Kong 'gutter oil' tests to be announced next week
Secretary for Food and Health Ko Wing-man announced on Thursday that test samples have been taken from about a dozen restaurants reportedly using contaminated cooking oil from a Kwai Chung manufacturer, after a raid on the company’s premises.
The findings will be released by next week, media reports said.
Scandals over the Kwai Chung-based oil company that reportedly use cheaper gutter oil in the production of its cooking oil have caused public concern.
Gutter oil is reprocessed kitchen waste dredged from drains and contains carcinogenic constituents created during the combustion process. It is harmful to health if consumed, experts say.
Food and Environment Hygiene Department (FEHD) carried out a raid the factory on Thursday morning. The unlicensed workshop, located in a factory unit in Kwai Chung, had already been chained and shut down by the time investigators arrived.
According to local media reports, the factory has been in operation for more than ten years. The company is said to retail its cooking oil at less than one third of the market price. “Their price cannot even cover production costs,” said the owner of another oil company in the same factory building. Oil drums are reported to be seen accumulating in the corridor.
Investigators broke into the workshop after acquiring a search warrant and took samples of contaminated oil. A staff member from the company said in a phone conversation with media that the company “imports supplies from the US and Canada,” and a licence was therefore not required. The person refused to comment about the company’s sales.
The incident has raised public fears over food safety in Hong Kong. The list of the 13 restaurants reported to be using gutter oil was widely circulated via SMS on Friday in attempts to warn family and friends.
The incident follows a spate of contaminated food scares across the mainland.
Except for one restaurant currently undergoing renovation, all the restaurants concerned have reportedly stopped using cooking oil bought from the oil manufacturer. Some restaurant owners openly destroyed containers of oil, reports said.
The Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades said that restaurant owners should be wary of unusually cheap food supplies. Chairman Wong Kar-wo reminded buyers from the food and beverage industry to be aware of food safety issues and consider customers’ health as their priority.