A complete lack of information in Vellore, Ranipet and Tirupattur districts on the existence of outlets where used cooking oil (UCO) is converted into biodiesel is still forcing big hotels to sell UCO to small eateries and food carts despite the risks involved.
The government announced moves to use 140 crore litres RUCO (repurposed used cooking oil) to make 110 crore litres of biodiesel annually. Simultaneously, the FSSAI (Food Safety and Standards Association of India) called on the hotel industry not to reuse cooking oil more than thrice and suggested that they hand over such oil to designated companies for conversion to biodiesel.
But neither food safety officials nor hoteliers have any knowledge as to where such conversion takes place in Tamil Nadu except to state that “it is somewhere near Kanchipuram”. Officials and hoteliers looked askance when this reporter sought to know whether the conversion unit was located in Kanchipuram town or some other location in Kanchipuram district. This has resulted in hotels disposing of UCO in various ways. A spokesman for a popular non-vegetarian restaurant at Vellore’s Green Circle, which used nearly 250 kg of mutton during weekends and 100 kg on weekdays, said, “We purchase cooking oil in 15-litre cans at a cost of Rs 1,250 per can and once used sell it to smaller eateries who purchase it for Rs 300 per can. They mix it with palm oil to suppress the non-veg smell.” Another hotelier seeking anonymity said “We use refined sunflower oil purchased in 1 litre pouches costing Rs 130 a litre and either sell it at Rs 7 to Rs 10 per litre to handcart men or pour it down the drain if there is no demand for it.”
Tamil Nadu Hotels Association president M Venkeddasubbu, when asked, said “Cooking oil for non-veg dishes is used as fuel in our hotels as it burns well. Only biryani is cooked on firewood and for all other dishes UCO is the fuel. Cooking oil used for veg dishes is reused once as it does not impair taste/flavour. Thus, oil used to fry pooris is then used when making dosas, after which it is poured down the drain.” “Based on any complaint, we can only issue notices to defaulting small eateries and handcarts using UCO and pour such seized oil on the ground. But, till date no checks have been initiated,” Vellore Food and Safety officials said. As the Central government has stated that oil companies (BPL, HPL and Indian Oil) will purchase biodiesel manufactured from UCO, the state government should do the needful to announce the name of the biodiesel conversion plants and their location to ensure that UCO goes for conversion and not to eateries and handcarts.
This is because the Central government has announced that UCO will be accepted by the conversion plant at Rs 51 per litre the first year, Rs 52.70 per litre in the second year and at Rs 54.50 per litre in the third year. Avoiding reheated cooking oil can save the population from ills such as weight gain, heart disease, diabetes and acidity, as such oil is also carcinogenic and with increased LDL cholesterol, sources have revealed.