ORF has undertaken a study to evaluate the extent of diversion.
A collaborative and evidence driven regulatory framework can help India fight the diversion of toxic waste oils back into the food stream, claims a new report by the Observer Research Foundation, one of India’s leading think-tanks. Supported by Koan Advisory Group and Neste, ORF has undertaken a first of its kind study to evaluate the extent of diversion of Used Cooking Oil (UCO) in India’s food stream and its impact on public health.
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. Despite food safety regulations outlawing consumption of UCO in any form, almost 60% of the UCO generated in India makes its way back into the food stream.
The report, released on, 23rd Aug’22, identifies key regulatory issues that affect the compliance of UCO related food safety regulations in India and proposes solutions based on global and regional best practices. To understand the extent of commercial UCO generation and diversion into the food stream, the current study surveyed 505 (101 large sized and 406 small sized) food business operators (FBOs) across four metros in India – Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai and Kolkata.
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 utilize 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. 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 organizations, 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. Neste is committed to supporting India to address this challenge, and we wish to highlight that by directing used cooking oil from human consumption to renewables production, India can mitigate the public health risk and combat the climate crisis simultaneously. Neste already uses used cooking oil sourced around the world as a raw material to produce a variety of renewable products, such as low-emission renewable diesel and sustainable aviation fuel, for the global market.” said Steven Bartholomeusz, Head of Public Affairs in the Asia-Pacific region at Neste.
The report concludes by outlining the need for greater collaboration between government food safety authorities, networks of doctors, nutritionists and experts, and private sector organizations 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.