At a KFC outlet in Shanghai, officials from the Shanghai Municipal Food and Drug Inspection Bureau are testing the frying oil to see whether it meets safety standards.
"I'm testing whether the wasted elements in the oil exceed the maximum limit, which is 27 units."
The result from this single outlet revealed the wasted portion to be only 21 units; lower than the warning level of 27 units. According to experts in the area of food security, excessively used oil can be harmful, as it may contain heavy metals or other highly toxic substances that could lead to cancer.
The Securities Daily also reported that hygiene is substandard in some KFC kitchens, with frying oil normally replaced every four days without regular pH tests being carried out, as required by food safety authorities. KFC China has rejected the claims, stating that it has very strict management and control rules in place relating to cooking oil. They stress that they conduct pH tests on cooking oil on a daily basis, and once readings exceed the legal limit, the oil is immediately discarded. However, an anonymous manager from a KFC outlet in Shanghai admits that they add new oil into the old batches every now and then.
"First we usually test the oil everyday to make sure it meets safety standards. If it's safe, then we would add some new oil into the old batch every day."
According to the regulations of the Shanghai Municipal Food and Drug Inspection Institute, local fast food restaurants have to use special testing tools to monitor the oil's daily quality. So, it's incorrect to say KFC has violated regulations simply by using oil for periods of four to five consecutive days. However, Qiu Congqian, Deputy Director of Shanghai Municipal Food and Drug Inspection Bureau says they don't recommend such conduct in the catering industry.
"We have previously publicized instructions on oil usage for the whole catering industry in the Shanghai area, suggesting that those restaurants that don't own self-testing equipment change their oil every three days or after 12-consecutive hours of use. Neither the national standard nor our local regulations have set laws in place banning the addition of new oil into the old, used oil, even though we always suggest that establishments discard used oil completely each time."
So far, KFC has not denied changing their cooking oil every four to five days, but insists that their way of managing oil usage is scientific and safe for consumers. KFC claimed that their practices are not only in line with those of the global industry, but also adhere to Chinese regulations. According to the China Health Care Association, it's been about 20 years since the current oil usage standard was first introduced in 1994, during which time China's catering industry has undergone rapid development.
Professor Hong Tao, from Beijing Technology and Business University, says it's embarrassing for Chinese administrators to have to verify whether KFC have violated industrial standards if the restaurant has referred to the national standard publicized in 1994.
"So far there are lots of regulations and laws in China that are far from mature. But our economy is developing very fast, which has resulted in many loopholes within many industries. It's very hard for administrators to monitor and overlook the market due to the lack of precise laws, regulations and standards."
The expert emphasizes that most companies will always choose to neglect their social responsibilities thanks to the existence of loopholes in laws and regulations. This is a key factor in many of China's food security problems witnessed in recent years.1 1For CRI, I'm Liu Min.