Forty-seven out of 50 samples of cooking oil were found to contain at least one harmful contaminant, with 40 per cent of them having three types or more, according to Hong Kong’s consumer watchdog. The Consumer Council released its findings on Monday, revealing that 60 per cent of the samples contained 3-MCPD, a potentially carcinogenic chemical, although the levels did not exceed European Union safety standards. Exposure to the chemical over a prolonged period had adversely affected the kidney functions, central nervous system and male reproductive system of laboratory animals, said Lui Wing-cheong, vice-chairman of the council’s research and testing committee. Hong Kong consumer watchdog turns up heat on faulty grill appliance markers “As cooking oil is an indispensable ingredient in every day cooking, manufacturers should have the responsibility to ensure their quality and safety, and prevent any harmful contaminants, so as to safeguard the health of consumers,” he said. But Lui noted that the sample with the highest 3-MCPD content, namely Carrington Farms’ coconut and avocado cooking oil blend, did not exceed EU standards, and would probably not pose health risks when consumed in regular amounts. The agent of Carrington Farms, the company behind the product made in an American factory, said it had provided the council with inspection results, adding there were no United States requirements for 3-MCPD content. It said tests would be carried out in the future to ensure “standards were met before [the product left] the factory”. Almost 60 per cent, or 29 samples, were also found to contain genotoxic carcinogen glycidol, with two brands exceeding EU standards. These were SuperFoodLab coconut cooking oil and Yu Pin King pure peanut oil, found with 1,100 micrograms and 2,000 micrograms of glycidol respectively. The maximum level set out in EU standards is 1,000 micrograms per kilogram. The agent of Yu Pin King indicated that its product complied with the laws and requirements of Hong Kong, while SuperFoodLab said the nutritional content of its oil was consistent with the label information. Two other samples were found with another genotoxic carcinogen, benzo[a]pyrene, with one exceeding the EU standard. While council chief executive Gilly Wong Fung-han noted that consuming regular amounts of these oils would not impact a person’s health too much, it was better to consume less of those containing chemicals such as glycidol and benzo[a]pyrene. “For glycidol and benzo[a]pyrene, there are no recommended tolerant levels. But the less you absorb, the better it is for your health. According to animal tests, [they] can cause cancer,” she said. Both 3-MCPD and glycidol were detected in one sample of extra virgin olive oil and two of camellia oil, which were labelled as cold-pressed. That meant the chemicals should technically not be present as they were not treated with high temperatures, Lui said. The case has been referred to the Customs and Excise Department for follow up. A sample of Prolife Organic’s wild organic cold-pressed camellia seed oil (unrefined) was also among those found to contain both chemicals. The manufacturer said a high temperature which might have naturally arisen could have produced the contaminants under a long-term operation, but it also promised to make improvements. No contaminants were found in only three of the tested samples, the council said. They were Carbonell’s extra virgin olive oil, Primo’s organic sunflower seed oil (cold-pressed) and Showa’s light canola oil (added vitamin E). “The council recommends consumers select cooking oils that mainly contain unsaturated fatty acids, and those with lower trans fatty acid and saturated fatty acid content,” Lui said. He added that consumers should be mindful of the smoke points of different oils to prevent the emission of a large amount of cooking fumes, which could lead to health risks. Dr Fong Lai-ying, an associate professor at the Technological and Higher Education Institute of Hong Kong’s faculty of science and technology, said there were no risks for consumers when it came to 3-MCPD, as long as the amount in a product was low. She added that people should not overreact, as the contaminant could occur naturally during the oil extraction and purification processes.