The Environmental Protection Administration (EPA) recently unveiled 10 independently developed tracers for waste cooking oil, which are to be issued by local environmental protection agencies to prevent substandard oil from re-entering the food supply.
The inspection of oil is conducted in two stages. It starts with the application of the first tracer dose at restaurants, eateries and food stands. A second dose would later be added to the oil at recycling facilities before the oil is transferred to be reused in the making of soap and biodiesel, EPA Minister Wei Kuo-yen (魏國彥) said.
“The source of most problematic oil samples would be revealed following an analysis of the tracers, which would then lead us to the recycling or reuse facility the oil is originating from,” Wei said.
Both stages would be carried out in a stealthy manner by local environmental protection workers, and the components of the tracers would not be disclosed, deterring potential violators who sell waste cooking oil to food manufacturers, he said.
Six of these tracers are transparent, while four are opaque. The use of the transparent ones would be prioritized, because they are harder to observe during a cursory inspection, Wei said.
“By mixing the six transparent tracers alone, we would obtain up to 720 combinations, which will be used during inspections to locate oil from a wide range of sources,” he said.
Wei said that he derived the inspiration for the tracers from his research on ancient oceanography, which often involved the use of tracers to analyze the Earth’s layers for matter that no longer exists.
Wei said that the application of these tracers is in the experimental stage, and that the administration would use controlled experiments, including determining the amounts and time involved, to figure out which combinations work best to track the destinations of waste cooking oil.
He said that at present, the use of the tracers would be carried out in a voluntary fashion; local governments can decide whether they want to use the potions.
“Although these tracers are cheap to manufacture and test, we should still try to achieve the optimal balance between cost and effect,” Wei said.
Businesses who are found handing waste cooking oil to unlicensed recyclers would be fined between NT$1,200 and NT$6,000, while illegal recyclers face a maximum fine of NT$300,000, he added.
So far, the governments of Hsinchu County, Hsinchu City and Taoyuan have agreed to use the tracers.
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