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The Chinese Problem With Gutter Oil

gutter oil in China

Gutter oil

The problem with gutter oil in China

If you are looking for a symbol of the issues with food safety in China, there is no finer example available than the illegal and utterly revolting issues surrounding gutter oil. Because cooking oil is essential in traditional Chinese cuisine, some hole-in-the-wall restaurants and street vendors will buy black market oil that has been recycled from garbage.


That is not a misprint – this is oil that comes from gutters, trash bins, dumpsters, or even sewers. Its ‘manufacturers’ will scoop out solid or liquid refuse that contains used animal parts or oil. After processing this waste, it is processed into cooking oil that is sold below market value. Because these street vendors then use that cooking oil for their food production, it can make people who eat at those vendors extremely ill.


If you need further evidence about this process or want to lose your lunch, you can watch a video by clicking here that details how gutter oil vendors work. It shows that unwitting Chinese consumers end up eating food that has been processed in oil that was once contained in sewage out of the ground.

Why is this so valuable?

Why has gutter oil become such a popular option on the Chinese black market? Most of the food that is eaten in China is stir-fried in a wok. As a country with more than 1.3 billion people, you can probably guess that the demand for cooking oil throughout China is massive. One of the reasons that gutter oil has become such a hot commodity in certain places in China is because the price of cooking oil fluctuates throughout the nation.

What are the health effects of gutter oil in China?

Even if the unscrupulous manufacturer does try to ‘process’ the gutter oil as much as possible, there are a number of different adverse health effects when eating food that was prepared with gutter oil. The more immediate symptoms that people suffer from include indigestion, abdominal pain, vomiting, and diarrhea.


However, because of where it is processed from and how it is processed, gutter oil contains a staggering number of carcinogens. Because of that, the consumption of gutter oil is actually extremely toxic and may lead to developmental disabilities in children, liver cancer, and stomach cancer. Make no mistake about it, there is nothing safe about consuming gutter oil.

How can gutter oil in China be legal?

To be clear, the use, distribution, and the production of gutter oil are all illegal in China. Even though the gutter oil trade is a thriving business, it is still a black market activity. However, the Chinese government does not have the necessary tools to enforce the law. Right now, the only thing that the government is actively doing is develop tools to determine whether the cooking oil that is used by certain vendors includes gutter oil. Despite the fact that arrests have been made, it appears that the demand for gutter oil keeps increasing.

How widespread is the problem with gutter oil in China?

According to information published in the International Business Times, Chinese authorities believe that as much as 10 percent of the cooking oil that is used throughout China might be gutter oil. If you simplify the math and assume that with a population of 1.3 billion, almost 130 MILLION people might be eating food every day that is prepared with toxic pollutants.

Who uses the gutter oil?

If you were to visit China yourself, you do not need to try to avoid everything that is stir-fried. Instead, remember that only the extremely cheap restaurants that you find across the country are likely to use gutter oil. Most places that cater to tourists will not risk cooking with gutter oil.


Street vendors likely use a large percentage of the gutter oil throughout China. Because street food has become a staple throughout China, it is likely that this explains why the Chinese are more likely to take ill than tourists are. The street vendors offer a cheap, convenient, and fast way to enjoy a warm meal on the go. Unfortunately, regulation with these street vendors is difficult. This means that it is difficult for government officials to crack down on those vendors that use gutter oil for their preparation.

How can you avoid gutter oil?

Even though eating street food in China has become a ‘rite of passage’ for so many tourists, it is probably a good idea to avoid eating at street vendors altogether until the problem is resolved, or at the least drastically reduced.

This is unfortunate, especially because there are countless street vendors that make their living with clean oil. If you want to avoid gutter oil, avoiding cheap restaurants and street vendors altogether might be the one way to do so.


If you enjoyed this article you may also like this article on The China melamine baby milk scandal and The issues with food safety in China

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Updated: April 11, 2016 — 11:25 am

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