Taiwan has banned all imports of lard from Hong Kong and will test all cooking oil products from the city amid a “gutter oil” scandal that broke out on the island, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reported Friday.
The island made the decision after investigation showed that a trading company in Hong Kong had used false invoices to sell recycled waste oil as edible oil to Taiwan.
The ban on all lard shipments from Hong Kong takes effect immediately, Taiwan’s Food and Drug Agency announced on Thursday.
All oil products from the city, Macau and mainland China must have official documents attesting to their quality. Tests will be conducted on 100 percent of such shipments, up from 2 to 5 percent previously.
According to the Census and Statistics Department of Hong Kong, 43 tons of lard were exported to Taiwan in the seven months to July. Lard shipments to the island reached 1,557 tons in 2011 and 444 tons in 2012.
The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said all lard exports from the city, even if they are produced legally, are non-edible oil.
The city does not have any licensing regime to regulate the recycling and processing of waste cooking oil, allowing unscrupulous merchants to mix waste cooking oil with lard, and sell them as unadulterated lard locally and overseas.
Approximately 16,000 tons of used cooking oil are recycled each year, government figures show. About 11,000 tons end up as diesel fuel, but it is not certain what happens to the rest.
Kenji Wong Yiu-kwong, technical manager at Champway Technology Ltd., one of the three biodiesel producers in Hong Kong, said the lack of regulation on the collection and recycling of used cooking oil has made it difficult to what happens to the finished product.
“We arrange vehicles to collect waste oil directly from over a thousand of restaurants,” Wong said. “It is then processed, turned into biodiesel and shipped to Europe and mainland China, and also sold to local oil companies, government agencies and non-governmental organizations.”
Wong said prices of recycled oil have tripled over the past eight years, mainly as a result of speculation. Some bulk buyers even offer a premium of up to 40 percent for the oil, suggesting that it is used for purposes other than biodiesel.
Secretary for the Environment Wong Kam-sing said the government is planning on recycling used cooking oil as part of efforts to lower Hong Kong’s carbon emission. But it has to ensure food safety and will need the cooperation of all concerned agencies.
Wong also assured the public that no used oil from restaurants has found its way into the local edible oil market.
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