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September 24, 2017

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Fast-food chains oil found unchanged

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The Consumer Protection Commission (CPC) reported yesterday that in a random inspection of eight fast-food chain stores, oils in fryers were found unchanged and reused for several days.

The toxic chemical compound, acrylamide, made when carbohydrate foods are cooked at high temperatures via cooking methods such as frying, deep frying and baking, could lurk in oil that has been used heavily, said the CPC.

Acrylamide consumption is linked to cancer risk, but not proven, said health officials.

The chains that were audited included ubiquitous names such as McDonald's, KFC, Burger King, Napoli Pizza and Domino's Pizza, said local media.

All of the fryers examined at the aforementioned establishments did not undergo any oil changes after six hours of use, added media reports.

Yang Shun-huei, an official with the CPC, questioned the current subjective monitoring practice of frying oil and its effectiveness.

The inspected fast-food chains separately released statements today to acknowledge compliance to regulations set by the Department of Health (DOH) and that oil quality is observed routinely for deterioration.

Frying oil is checked for any changes in color, rancidity, viscosity and clarity as well as any presence of fumes, which indicate carcinogens in the oil, said statements.

A spokesperson for McDonald's, the biggest food-service company in the world, explained that the frying oil at every point of sale abide by regulations set by the DOH.

McDonald's not only uses healthy vegetable oil, but also periodically checks the quality of oil to determine the need for oil change, said the spokesman.

When asked about the standards by which McDonald's bases the oil's quality, the spokesperson provided no further comment.

A KFC representative said that oil spoilage is not judged by days of use, but by amount of use, and that KFC also adheres to health codes.

Napoli Pizza chains noted a more different approach to quality control. Lin Mong-hsin, a vice general manager, said in addition to skimming residue oil daily, the oils in fryers are changed every time a branch reaches its sales mark of NT$30,000.

This directly relates to how frequently equipments have been used, said Lin.

Despite concerns over continued use of overnight frying oil at high temperatures, Liu Fang-ming, a DOH food safety official, said that the DOH could only ask inspectors "to include the checking of frying as one of the priorities in monitoring food safety."

At present, no law stipulates the mandatory change of oil in kitchens. Inspectors can merely determine by color or texture, said Liu.

But he said that health authorities are allowed to sue their discretion as to whether or not a store gets fined.

This penalty between NT$60,000 and NT$300,000 has only been handed out once in the last two years, noted local media.

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