CESA warns of confusion over FOG

There’s confusion in the foodservice industry over what can and can’t be used when it comes equipment to deal with the slippery issue of FOG (fats, oil and grease).

CESA points out that, while there is no law stating that foodservice establishments need to fit a grease management system, there is legislation making them responsible if a sewer is blocked due to discharge from their establishment.

One thing is clear about FOG: any foodservice company that is found to be responsible for creating such a problem in the sewers will almost certainly be prosecuted by the water companies. Their attitude is understandable, since Water UK reports there are 366,000 sewer blockages in the UK each year, of which 70% are caused by FOG and other material not intended for disposal via the sewer. The continuing media fascination with fatbergs underlines the fact that it’s an issue that the foodservice industry must address, urgently.

CESA has had reports from members about the contradictory attitudes of the various water companies, and the fact that some approve of certain FOG management equipment, while others don’t. This inconsistency is adding to the confusion.

So what’s allowed? Essentially there are three types of FOG management equipment. Grease separators, grease removal units (GRUs) and biological / bacteria based dosing systems. All three can be effective individually although, in many cases, two or even all three will be used together to maximise their impact.

There’s no ‘one size fits all’ solution: the constraints on a new build vs. an existing site and location issues mean that the best system, or combination of systems, for dealing with FOG will be different in each case. The bottom line is, provided the system is effective, it’s legal.

Going forward, CESA expects FOG to become part of the ‘food waste as a resource’ topic. Indeed, the Association has made this point to Defra as part of the consultation on food waste.

“The confusion about the legal situation relating to the technologies available to manage FOG are causing real problems to both operators and equipment suppliers,” said Keith Warren, director of CESA. “The water companies need to get their act together and work with the foodservice industry to get a grip on the grease issue. Meanwhile, equipment manufacturers are continuing to work on new methods of turning FOG from a problem into a resource, and that is undoubtedly the future.”

CESA assisted British Water in the compilation of a FOG Code of Practise, which is available to download from CESA.org.uk (via the Info Hub under the Information tab on the home page). It gives full advice on the equipment available and the legal situation. The Association is currently working on a new document about FOG, which will clarify the situation in terms of what the regulations are and what is expected of foodservice operations.