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Is the samosa safe? Over 60% of used cooking oil goes back to food stream, finds study

Is the samosa safe? Over 60% of used cooking oil goes back to food stream, finds study

Extensive medical and scientific literature has linked the repeated consumption of Used Cooking Oil as a significant risk factor for a number of non-communicable diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and organ damage, the report said.

UCO is the leftover oil from frying that is produced in both homes and commercial food manufacturing and service businesses. UCO is the leftover oil from frying that is produced in both homes and commercial food manufacturing and service businesses.

Despite food safety regulations outlawing consumption of Used Cooking Oil (UCO) in any form, almost 60% of this oil generated in India makes its way back into the food stream, a report from Indian think-tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF) has highlighted. 

Based on a survey of over 505 food business operators (FBOs) across four metros in India – Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata, out of which were 101 large-sized and 406 were small-sized, the study was supported by Koan Advisory Group and Neste.

UCO is the leftover oil from frying that is produced in both homes and commercial food manufacturing and service businesses. Extensive medical and scientific literature has linked the repeated consumption of UCO as a significant risk factor for a number of non-communicable diseases, including cancer, heart disease, and organ damage, the report said.

The results of the survey indicate that the re-use of UCO by commercial food business operators (FBOs) is pervasive, especially among small establishments and street vendors in New Delhi, Kolkata and Mumbai who utilise UCO till the last drop.

Additionally, awareness and compliance of food safety regulations on UCO re-use among FBOs is low, exposing consumers to increasing risks of diseases and poor health outcomes, the report said.

Among the cities surveyed, compliance of food safety regulations among FBOs was highest in Chennai, owing to enhanced awareness, collaboration between the local government and private sector organisations, and development of relevant infrastructure for waste storage and disposal.

“This survey gives us a clear picture of the challenge faced now to regulate the used cooking oil used in the market. The government, civil society and private sector should collaborate to decide what is required to tackle, for example, the public health challenges related to diverting the used cooking oil back to human consumption,” said Steven Bartholomeusz, Head of Public Affairs in the Asia-Pacific region at Neste.  “By directing used cooking oil from human consumption to renewables production, India can mitigate the public health risk and combat the climate crisis simultaneously,” he said.

The report concludes by outlining the need for greater collaboration between government food safety authorities, networks of doctors, nutritionists and experts, and private sector organisations to create a regulatory and policy framework that drives responsible behavioral change and consumer awareness. Additionally, it suggests actionable inputs for different stakeholders to create pathways that link the efforts of building a safe and secure food environment with sustainable circular economy principles. 

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