KARACHI: The import of used cooking oil — a banned item not fit for human consumption — is thriving in Pakistan.
It is discarded cooking oil that has already been used for deep frying of food items in various countries. In absence of monitoring of food standards it is consumed by restaurants and other petty traders dealing in fried food products.
The 70,000 tonnes edible oil imports originate from nine countries. Of this about 20,000 tonnes is projected to be used oil which is being mis-declared as residue of fatty acids substances and acid oil. Besides health hazards, it causes annual revenue loss of around Rs1 billion to the exchequer.
Ghee makers told Dawn that the landed cost of imported used oil ranges between Rs60-65 per litre while the local industry’s average price of cooking oil is Rs160 per litre. Even the crude edible oil landed cost is Rs120 per litre.
Used cooking oil is said to be imported from Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Australia, UAE, the Philippines, USA, Singapore and Kuwait under PCT Heading 1522.0090 and 3823.1990 from Karachi Port.
Pakistan Vanaspati Manufacturers Association (PVMA) Secretary General Umer Islam Khan said that six years back the volume of illegal import of used cooking oil was just 2,000 to 3,000 tonnes.
He said as a practice few drums of acid oil stacked in front are checked and the whole container containing used oil is released by customs.
He informed Director General PSQCA Pir Bakhsh Khan Jamali on April 7, 2014 that used oil was being imported by mis-declaring it as soap raw material.
The used oil is marketed after semi bleaching and deodorising process.
“PVMA will approach Ministry of National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination to assess the negative impact on human health”, he added.
A PSQCA confirmed that the complaint has been received and the action will soon be taken.
Chairman All Pakistan Confectionery Association Javed Haji Abdullah ruled the possibility of use of used cooking oil by the confectioners. “Used oil emits bad smell,” he said adding “our members are using fresh packed cooking oil”. He did not rule out its use by road side sellers of fried items like potato chips (French fries), pakoras, samosas, jalabees etc.
PVMA demanded a ban on import of PFAD and acid oil etc in containerised form, rather should be made mandatory to import soap material in bulk only.
The Directorate General Intelligence and Investigation has asked the FBR that the clearance of mixture/residue of fatty acids imported by commercial importers should be allowed through red channel. “Each such consignment should be subjected to physical examination and sample checking by the Customs.”