By Dr Saurabh Arora*

Oil has been an indispensable part of cooking in India. Whether we are frying pakoras, samosas, jalebis or adding additional aroma by tempering our cuisines, oil plays a dominant role in making it delicious and giving it an appropriate texture.  However, the oil used to prepare such delicacies are often reheated and used many times in eateries and restaurants as well as homes too. Unfortunately, it has been quite an apparent practice. Numerous studies show that when cooking oil is reheated it releases deleterious toxic substances thereby increasing free radicals in our body which ultimately leads to inflammation and severe chronic ailments.

 Notably, Food Safety and Standards Authority of India(FSSAI) guidelines state that the re-heating should be avoided and in case you have to reuse oil, a maximum of three times is permitted to avoid formation of trans-fat.

 The guidelines further connotes that the “Re-heating and reuse of oil should be avoided as far as possible. Avoid using leftover oil wherever possible. However, vegetable oil having developed Total Polar Compound more than 25% shall not be used.” However despite consistent notifications and guidelines it is a matter of concern that most of the food business operators use reheated cooking oil repeatedly.

 Ideally, the vegetable oil must be discarded after using it for four times as the reheated oil leads to formation of free radicals that causes oxidative stress which further elevates the levels of glucose, creatinine, and cholesterol in the body.

 The repeated frying of food items alters Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids (PUFA) molecules present in the oil resulting in the formation of oxidized monomers, dimmers, and polymers which further break down into toxic Malondialdehyde which can lead to cancers and coronary heart ailments.

 It is pivotal to educate FBOs and consumers as well regarding appropriate usage and disposal of cooking oil.

How UCO Jeopardizes Our Environment?

  • Obtrusively, cooking oil used by restaurants and food products manufacturers is not discarded in an environmentally friendly way.
  •  Commercial establishments engaged in the food and beverages (F&B) sector, large scale commercial use of cooking oil by the snacks manufacturing industry and hotels, restaurants, caterers, road-side eateries, dhabas, even the street vendors leads to  the production of hundreds of tons of UCO with no proper planning of disposal.
  • UCO has the tendency to convert into trans-fat. Moreover its dumping and disposal into the drains or sewer is harmful for our environment. When UCO reaches the natural water reserves it  harms aquatic and marine life. Various reports show that it is life threatening for fish, birds, plants and other aquatic life forms as the coating of oily layers reduces their ability to breathe.
  • UCO raises the Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) and pollutes the water bodies.

FSSAI’s Initiatives regarding disposal of Used Cooking Oil(UCO)

  • The Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has already issued a guidance note in the year 2018 outlining the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on handling and disposal of UCO. These SOPs clearly mention that the UCO should not be disposed of into the municipal sewers or drains. Rather, it should be discarded in an environmentally friendly way, preferably by providing it to the authorized used cooking oil aggregators/collectors duly registered with authorized agencies such as State Biodiesel Board or Biodiesel Association of India.
  • At household level, the FSSAI recommends the mixing of UCO with some absorbent material like saw dust, sand, used cloth, towel, waste paper etc. to contain any spillage and then dispose of it off in dustbins.
  • Recently, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has issued a Standard Operating Procedure on Regulatory action against malpractices in disposal of used cooking oil. The Apex body of food safety has drawn reference to order no 1-2/Stds/O&F/Notification n (II)/FSSAI-2018 dated 06.05.2019 regarding enrolment of Biodiesel plants under Repurpose Used Cooking Oil (RUCO) initiative for collection of Used Cooking Oil (UCO) from Food Business Operators.
  • Meanwhile, FSSAI is also initiating a similar enrollment process for manufacturers of soap, lubricants, etc. It has stated that it is indispensable to ensure that the UCO collected by the FSSAI enrolled biodiesel plants, manufacturers of soap, lubricant, etc is utilized only for preparation of the intended product and not redirected to the food supply chain.
  • FSSAI has taken decision along with the approval of all the Competent Authorities that in case of any malpractice is observed against the FSSAI enrolled biodiesel plants, manufacturers of soap, lubricant, etc and/or their aggregator/collection agency then suitable regulatory action must be taken against them by regulatory officials.
  • Similar actions are required in respect of FBOs not disposing of UCO as per the directions issued by FSSAI. It has been notified that the regulatory officials may refer to the SOP on Regulatory Action against Malpractices in Disposal of UCO at Annex A for taking suitable action against the non-compliant FSSAI enrolled biodiesel plants, manufacturers of soap lubricant, etc, their aggregators and FBOs.

UCO and Cooking Oil analysis and testing at Auriga Research

Our NABL accredited and FSSAI recognised laboratories in pan India locations are fully equipped with avant garde technology with teams of experts to test cooking oils and Used Cooking Oils(UCO). We provide testing facilities for trans- fat in cooking oil, rancidity, peroxide value, saponification value, iodine value, acid value , Rancidity,fatty acid profile, Hexane by Gas Chromatography with reference to AOAC International. We use IS 548 Methods of Sampling and test for oils and fats.  

*A prolific inventor, pharmacist, scientist, technophile, and visionary entrepreneur. He has been leading the contract, testing, certification, and research business at Arbro and Auriga since 2005 with labs in seven locations. Invented, patented, and commercialized SNEC 30, a scientifically advanced curcumin supplement; Founder of Food Safety Helpline; Founder and Mentor of