A video titled This Video Of Chinese Street Food Made From 'Gutter Oil' Is The Most Disgusting Thing You Will See All Day rose to the top of the reddit front page today.

It claims some restaurants in China use "gutter oil" - cooking oil that is recycled from drains.

Some people in the comments claimed that the source, Radio Free Asia, is not reputable, and after a bit of cursory research, I am erring on the side of 'this is bogus', but I am not sure.

Is this story true?

  • Among other things, I found this economist article, it seems to suppport (3). – tlehman Oct 29 '13 at 22:20
  • Basing the evaluation of correctness of the story on the trustworthiness of the source is a logical fallacy. – user5341 Nov 15 '13 at 11:39
  • BBC 2012: "Chinese officials have told pharmaceutical firms to check their suppliers after claims that some have used "gutter oil" to make antibiotics, state-run media report." bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-19462349 supports (2) and (3). But what is the percentage of the illegal oil used in gastronomy? – Jonas Stein Apr 12 '17 at 22:54

While I cannot speak to the veracity of the video, gutter oil is mentioned enough times in other verifiable sources to make it a reasonably accurate story. An article in Bioresource Technology mentions "popular concern on food security caused by illegal use of gutter oil in China" as well as "producing biodiesel from gutter oil."1

There is another article in the Journal of China Executive Leadership Academy with the title "Dilemma in the Supervision of 'Gutter Oil.'"2 It starts like this:

For quite a long time,alluring profits and absence of effective supervision jointly contribute to the rampancy of "gutter oil" business. Besides,there lack of relevant laws and regulations to curb the production and sale of "gutter oil."

Another paper, in the Journal of Instrumental Analysis proposes to use gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to distinguish gutter from edible oils.3

Finally, there is a the wikipedia page on gutter oil, with even more sources.


  1. Sai Liang, et al. "Life cycle assessment of biodiesel production in China." Bioresource Technology, Volume 129, February 2013, Pages 72–77.
  2. Wang, Dang. "Dilemma in the Supervision of 'Gutter Oil." Journal of China Executive Leadership Academy, 2012:05.
  3. Hui-qin Wu, et al. "A Novel Method for the Identification of Gutter Oils Using SPME/GC-MS." Journal of Instrumental Analysis, 2012:01.

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