Public should vary cooking oil exposure: Taiwanese media

TAIWAN - As Taiwan continues to be besieged by the ongoing food safety crisis, an editorial by the Central News Agency, quoting food industry experts, yesterday urged the public to diversify their consumption of cooking oils to minimise health impacts.

The editorial stated that Taiwan has been rocked by successive food safety scares, with each revelation growing increasingly more horrifying than its precedents. In September the public was shocked by reports that so-called pure olive oils were concocted from cheaper replacements and the colouring agent copper chlorophyll. Two months later, it was discovered that the public had ingested cooking oils refined from food refuse or livestock feed-grade oils unfit for human consumption.

A Netizen sarcastically expressed gratitude that companies have yet to expand their misdeeds to making cooking oils from industrial-grade ingredients, and ingesting traces of food colouring agents does not seem so bad in light of recent revelations.

As outrage converges on the misdeeds of lard- and tallow-oil makers, vegetable cooking oil manufacturers have stepped forth to tout the exemplary safety standards put on their wares. The CNA report, however, questioned the validity and motivation of such claims.

According to the report, each variant of cooking oil has its own advantages, and none is guaranteed to be beyond scrutiny.

While the report acknowledged that food safety standards in vegetable oils are more easily ensured and regulated via the monitoring of imports of common agricultural ingredients, it also highlighted a number of pitfalls to be aware of.

Most notably, the editorial reminded the public that consumption of peanut oils made by unscrupulous manufacturers brings the risk of ingesting aflaxtoxins, severe contaminants linked to cancer, while camellia and sesame oils are prone to contain traces of harmful pesticides and excessively high acidic values, respectfully.

In addition, as the public flock toward adopting peanut, sesame and camillia oils made by mom and pop outlets, the report warned that sanitary standards at small-scale operations may be no better than at the host of well reputed brands embroiled in the current scandals.

In particular, oil products made by medium-scale manufacturers without the resources to furnish their own rudimentary testing facility must also be scrutinized, said CNA.

The editorial advised the public to diversify their consumption of cooking oils by rotating between products made by reputable brands.

The report recommends that the public favour simplicity over other factors, as cooking oils made from a single ingredient are likely to be safer than blended variants.

The report quoted an anonymous food oil expert as saying that lower priced cooking oils such as those made from soybeans and sunflowers are less prone to tampering due to lack of prospects in gaining illegal profits.

Lastly, the report advised the public to choose oils that are required to conform to the "100 per cent pure" statement printed on their labels, as opposed to variants claiming to feature the flavors of certain ingredients.