July 5, 2018
A Win-Win-Win for Public Health, Environment and Energy Security
Food Authority’s regulations to monitor quality of ‘Used Cooking Oil’ has come into force on 1st July, 2018. Prolonged reuse of Cooking Oil for deep-frying is a potential health hazard and can lead to many diseases.
Repeated frying of Cooking Oil leads to changes in physiochemical, nutritional and sensory properties of edible oil. Use of Cooking Oil for repeated frying leads to the formation of ‘Total Polar Compounds (TPC)’ making it unfit for human consumption. There is evidence to suggest that TPCs above the set level cause hypertension, atherosclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, liver disease etc.
In the interest of safeguarding public health, the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) has notified the Food Safety and Standards (Licensing and Registration of Food Businesses), First Amendment Regulations, 2017. These regulations prescribe the limit for Total Polar Compounds (TPC) to be maximum 25% beyond which the Cooking Oil is not suitable for use. From 1st July, 2018 onwards, all Food Business Operators (FBOs) would be required to monitor the quality of oil during frying by complying with the said regulations.
FSSAI has also established the method to estimate the Total Polar Compounds (TPC) in Edible Oils and Fats based on AOAC Official Method 982.27 vide Order dated 20.02.2018. For rapid on-site testing by food businesses themselves, small handheld devices are now available that check the ‘Total Polar Compounds’ in the oil during frying.
Currently, Used Cooking Oil is either not discarded at all or disposed of in an environmentally hazardous manner, thereby, choking drains and sewerage systems. Also, Used Cooking Oil reportedly finds its way to small restaurants / dhabas and road-side vendors. Given that Used Cooking Oil is a potential feedstock for biodiesel, it’s use for making biodiesel will be environmentally safe and prevent diversion of used cooking oil to small restaurants/roadside vendors.
National Policy on Biofuels, 2018 released in May this year has categorized biodiesel as First Generation (1G) bio-fuel. The policy encourages setting up of supply chain mechanisms for biodiesel production from Used Cooking Oil.
Commenting on this issue, CEO, FSSAI, Pawan Agarwal stated that “Effective implementation of Used Cooking Oil standards is a Win-Win-Win for all three, the Public Health, the Environment and the Energy Security”. He added that “this would however, require ‘Triple E Strategy’ and a coordinated effort. First ‘E’ in the ‘Triple E Strategy’ is ‘Education’ that is educating both the consumers and food businesses about public health consequences of spoiled ‘Used Cooking Oil’. Second ‘E’ is ‘Enforcement’, particularly amongst large food processing plants, restaurants and fast-food joints that are frying food in large quantities; and the third ‘E’ is developing an ‘Ecosystem’ for collection of Used Cooking Oil and producing biodiesel from it”.
He further added that the Food Authority is advising the State Food Safety Commissioners to take up awareness and education programmes, surveillance and enforcement activities in this regard. Further, the Authority is already in discussions with Indian Biodiesel Association to establish a nation-wide ecosystem for collection of Used Cooking Oil and its conversion to bio-diesel.
Small quantities of Used Cooking Oil is already being collected from food businesses either through a barter arrangement or at cost, but there a huge scope for expanding this ecosystem. Annually, about 23 million MT Cooking Oil is consumed in India. There is potential to recover and use about 3 million MT of this for production of bio-diesel.
This will have an estimated value of Rs.18000 crores per year. Used Cooking Oil is viewed as the most reasonable and advisable feedstock for biodiesel production. Bio-diesel is non-poisonous and biodegradable fuel with better burning emission profile and high flash point therefore easy to transport. Thus, time is right for India now to take up large scale bio-diesel production using Used Cooking Oil as feedstock through a coordinated effort.