THE Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA) Group Public Relations Manager, Mr Fullard Gwasira has warned citizens against buying food in backyard kitchens amidst indications that the operators of such facilities were using transformer oil to fry food.
By Michael Gwarisa
Mr Gwasira said the transformer oil looks more or less like cooking oil and it was difficult to tell the difference hence the abuse by food peddlers. He however warned that the oils contain harmful toxins which may lead to cancers and other health complications.
Why thieves steal transformer oil: Transformer oil is laden with toxins called PCBs & looks just like cooking oil. It lasts much longer when used in frying chicken & chips because the PCBs are resistant to acids & need about 200 days of direct sunlight to start breaking down.
“These PCBs are proven pollutants & carcinogens (cancer-causing). So let us beware where we eat those fried chicken, fish and chips and report cases of vandalism,” said Gwasira.
He added that in some instances, transformer oil is mixed with some additives and used as a substitute for diesel where it gets engines running for a while but damages engines in the long run.
The oil does not have a distinct smell and people can eat food prepared with it without suspecting anything. According to Internet reports, mineral oil is different from vegetable cooking oil because the former is made from petroleum. It is very stable at high temperatures, making it better for frying but it can be toxic.
Others use the highly refined transformer oil in jelly stoves and when heated, it stays longer because it has a high boiling point. In Africa cases of food being fried in transformer oil are also rampart in East Africa Kenya where demand for cheap fast food is rife.
The power utility’s spokesperson Mr Fullard Gwasira said transformer oil was on high demand and was also being sold to motorists for use as a fuel blender.
The power company has of late been experiencing massive cases of vandalism of ZESA infrastructure as well as the stealing of transformer oil in both low and high density suburbs where several residential areas have gone for months living in total darkness.