Many firms in Ho Chi Minh City and nearby are using low quality cooking oil and recycling the oil waste, Vietnam's environment police found from an inspection started last year.
In June last year, CMT Company in HCMC imported 1,800 tons of cooking oil from a Malaysia firm to Nha Rong-Khanh Hoi port and said that the oil would be processed and exported to Cambodia.
But before the shipment passed customs procedures and food safety tests, the oil was released on Vietnam market, the Tuoi Tre reported Tuesday.
The southern environment police from the Ministry of Public Security said customs officers at the port were compromised somehow and the company managed to take nearly 640 tons of the oil out of the port in 29 tankers.
HCMC Customs Department after that punished responsible officials VND20 million in total and asked CMT to return VND3.2 billion as the value of the oil taken away.
Expanded investigation into the case of CMT discovered three other firms making similar violations in cooking oil trading.
The firms in HCMC, Thinh Phat, Thien Ly Ma and Dai Nam, were found trading oil that contains many elements in higher amount than permitted for food safety and hygiene.
In March this year, the environment police worked with health and food safety inspectors in HCMC and the neighboring Dong Nai Province and they have linked the illegal oil trade with many small businesses using the unsafe oil for food processing.
Many factories processing fried onions, a popular addition to many dishes in Vietnam, were found using the low quality oil bought from Thinh Phat.
Waste oil also usable
Another fried onion processor Nguyen Thi Huong bought oil from Mai Trang Company and after use the oil was resold to Mai Trang at VND3,000.
Mai Trang Company bought waste oil from many other fried onion processors in the city.
Representatives of Mai Trang Company, where around 7.6 tons of waste oil was found by the police, said that the company bought waste oil from restaurants or some middlemen in the city at VND6,000-7,000 a kilo and resold it at VND12,000.
One of the middlemen named Nguyen Thi Kim Hoa said she buys waste oil from food processing companies and restaurants at VND7,000-10,000 a kilo and resells it at VND7,000-15,000 a kilo.
The company is buying 150-200 kilos of the waste oil every day, it said.
Statistics showed that the company has bought around 540 tons of waste oil for resale since the year 2000.
Inspections at 12 companies like Mai Trang in HCMC, Dong Nai and Binh Duong Provinces found that nearly 2,000 tons of waste oil was resold on the market for food processing. Middlemen claim some people bought waste oil for animal feed, lubricants, and even more fried onions one more time.
Senior lieutenant Dang Van Tot from the environment police said the amount of waste oil being used in the reality is larger than what the inspection found.