The Plastic In Frying Oil Hoax Debunked

Many people love eating fried foods. We batter all sorts of things and fry them – fish, chicken, pork, bananas, yam, sausages, anchovies… even Oreos, Twinkies and ice-cream! Of course, it’s not healthy to eat them all the time, but we sure love them!

If the health risks are not enough to spoil your appetite, there are the repeated accusations that many vendors add plastic to their frying oil to make their fried treats stay crispy. But just how true is it? Let’s find out!

The Plastic In Frying Oil Hoax Debunked
Photo credit : Cooking Minette

 

Plastic-Coated Fried Bananas???

There are many claims of vendors adding plastic to the frying oil they use. They are usually short and told from the first-person perspective, making it look like your friend (who sent it) actually witnessed it. But when you query the sender, they will say that they were just forwarding what they received from their friends.

Here is a particularly detailed write-up from around 2011. For those who do not understand Malay, “pisang goreng” is fried banana in Malay.

PISANG GORENG WILL MAKE YOU SICK

This is a true story (from my friend). Mum said my uncle saw it in Tunjang (Kedah) and the pasar malam in Titi Chai Kangar (Perlis) where goreng pisang was sold in the afternoons. The hawker added a plastic drinking straw into a wok of hot oil and let it melt completely before he started to fry some bananas in the bubbling oil. This is why some fried bananas and ubi are so crispy… for hours…!!

My uncle asked the hawker about this, but the hawker did not answer him. When my uncle told my mum about this, they realised this is how the hawkers ensure that fried food stays crispy for their customers. My mum said that in Thailand , they do the same thing to keep fried ikan bilis and fried onions crispy, even if left in the open for hours!!

Another time, I was with my family in Cameron Highlands . It was 3:00 pm and we were hanging around the market area, where there were several hawker stalls. At one of them, there was a big wok of boiling oil with an empty plastic bottle floating in it and slowly melting.

At first I thought it had fallen into the oil accidentally, but then I saw a little girl, about 7-years old, holding a pair of chopsticks and stirring the bottle around in the hot oil. I realised, Oh my God… these people were using melted plastic to fry food, so that the fried snacks would not turn soft when it cooled down later.

Please forward to all your friends… DO NOT EAT CRISPY FRIED SNACKS from the hawkers!! Even if you don’t see them melting the plastic in oil, they might have added the plastic a few hours before. After all, they keep the black oil for next day’s frying as well, to save cost on cooking oil.

Now, let us debunk this fried hoax once and for all! As usual, we will dissect the hoax logically, before checking its scientific viability.

 

Pictures Or It Didn’t Happen

Ever since the first iPhone was launched in 2007, smartphones have been all the rage. They have also allowed us to snap photos and take video clips of everything that catches our eyes. Whether it’s the price tag of something we want to buy, or an incident we happen to witness. That’s why the Internet is full of “citizen reporters” posting their pictures and videos on social media.

Yet, none of these claims are ever backed by photos or videos of the perpetrators. So many different claims of fried food vendors adding plastic to their frying oil but not a single photo? How is that possible? As they say – pictures, or it didn’t happen!

 

Why Would Anyone Do It Publicly?

The fried food vendors are always described as openly adding plastic straws or bottles to their frying oil, and letting them melt, before they start frying their delicious treats. Now, put yourself in their shoes, and ask yourself – would you do it in public?

The Plastic In Frying Oil Hoax Debunked
Fried food vendor | Photo credit : Time Out

Of course, not! Who in the right mind would be so stupid as to add inedible plastic to their frying oil in full view of their customers? Who would buy their fried foods after witnessing such a travesty???

 

Fool Me Twice?

Many of us have purchased fried foods all our lives. Have you ever witnessed them adding plastic to their frying oil?  In fact, none of your family and friends will admit that they have ever seen anyone do it.

Yet, this writer and his uncle have personally seen two vendors in two different locations doing it. Coincidence? I think NOT.

 

No One Reported The Vendors?

What would YOU do if you witness such an act? Would you just ignore it and go about your business? Perhaps wait until you are back in the comfort of your home before you write a warning email to their family and friends? Or post about it on social media?

The Plastic In Frying Oil Hoax Debunked
Cheese chocolate fried bananas | Photo credit : Denai.my

No. Most, if not all, of us would at least snap photos of the vendors and report them to the police and the health authorities. Many of us would probably rebuke the vendors, and demand that they stop doing it immediately!

Why didn’t the writer of that email (who seemed to be, oh, so concerned about well being) report the vendor he witnessed to the authorities? Why didn’t anyone else who saw it happen, for the matter?

The simple answer is – because it didn’t happen. That’s why there has never been a police report, or even a news report about such incidences.

 

Plastic Stinks When You Melt Or Burn Them

Many of us have accidentally burned or melted plastic. You will recall how they STINK when we melt or burn them. So you can imagine just how “fragrant” the oil would smell if someone actually melted plastic in it.

 

Can The Frying Oil Even Melt Plastic Bottles?

The writer claims to have personally witnessed a plastic bottle melting in the frying oil. But is that possible?

Cooking oil and bottled water are stored in plastic bottles made from PET (Polyethylene terephthalate). PET melts at 260°C (500°F). On the other hand, palm oil, which is the most common frying oil used in such foods, has a smoking point of just 232°C / 450°F.

In other words, the frying oil will break down and start smoking before the plastic bottle even begins to melt!

The only cooking oils that are stable enough above 260°C are refined safflower oil and avocado oil. They are the only cooking oils that are remotely capable of melting plastic bottles. Needless to say, they are both much harder to find and A LOT more expensive than palm oil.

 

What About Melting Plastic Straws In Frying Oil?

Most drinking straws are made of polypropylene, which has a melting point of 130 to 171 °C (266 to 340 °F). So it is possible to melt them in frying oil.

But guess what – the melted plastic won’t actually dissolve in the oil, which is what most people expect. Instead, it just becomes a misshapen clump of soft plastic, as this video shows :

 

Chewing On A Soft Dildo

Even if you go to all the trouble and expense of actually melting a plastic bottle in safflower / avocado oil, and successfully coat a banana in the molten plastic, you will end up with an inedible plastic-coated banana.

The plastic coat will be hard to chew on. Try chewing on a plastic bag. If that’s not much fun, then you can imagine how it feels to chew on a plastic-coated banana. You will probably feel like you are chewing on a soft dildo… LOL!

Banana dildo

 

Waterproof Food That Won’t Spoil

Plastic-coated fried foods, if they do actually exist, will be quite easy to spot. They will be waterproof and won’t spoil even if you leave them in open air for many days.

 

Plastic Cannot Be Digested

Plastic cannot be absorbed or digested by our body. So these plastic-coated fried foods, if they do exist, will pass through our gastrointestinal system intact. If you plastic-coat anchovies, they will pass out in your stool in pristine condition! 😀

The only danger of swallowing these plastic-coated food items is that they may cause intestinal obstruction. That’s why turtles die when they chew on plastic bags.

Turtle eating plastic bag
Turtle eating plastic bag | Photo credit : Troy Mayne

So if you think eating plastic is bad for human beings, stop using plastic bags and stop throwing them into the sea, because guess what – eating plastic is bad for fishes and turtles too!

 

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