California’s Grease Theft Program Making Strides

By Tina Caparella

Although California renderers are pleased with the progress the state’s inedible kitchen grease (IKG) program is making, they continued to look for solutions to the ongoing problem of used cooking oil theft as the Rendering Industry Advisory Board (RIAB) met with the California Department of Food and Agriculture (CDFA) in November. The board was developed several years ago as a means to advise the state’s agriculture secretary on issues facing the rendering industry.

CDFA staff presented a new software program called Coplogic that can take incoming reports of IKG thefts and disseminate the data immediately to law enforcement agencies participating in the same program. CDFA currently hosts the IKG website ( where anyone can report a grease theft, but the data must then be painstakingly compiled, often corrected, and then sent to the appropriate city or county law enforcement office often days or weeks later. According to Coplogic, 200 California law enforcement agencies are currently using the software, but not the California Highway Patrol. Although the software’s potential, and discounted cost, piqued the interest of RIAB members, Don DeSmet, Darling International, Inc. questioned how much attention one or two instantly received police reports on grease theft will get when agencies are dealing with so many other illegal activities that are higher priority to them,. RIAB members decided to continue to investigate this and other possible software, including internally programming CDFA’s website.

CDFA senior investigator Paul SanGregorio encouraged renderers and grease collectors to use the department’s theft reporting website so the program’s investigators will have substantiating numbers to show law enforcement agencies the magnitude of the grease theft problem. He then displayed an electronic state map with pin marks showing all the thefts in the last several months. Dan Stonesifer, San Diego Fats, Oils, and Grease Haulers Association, said there would be more pins on the map in his area if the “tedious” reporting resulted in more arrests, but he understood the need to collect the data and said he would encourage his members to report.

A new feature on the program’s website is a list of program violators, something RIAB members have been pushing for. There was then a continued discussion on removal of grease containers, a problem often asked of CDFA to resolve. The department can prosecute those who damage or relabel/repaint another company’s container as it is considered theft, but cannot police if a previous servicing company won’t remove its container after a new servicing company takes over an account. It was determined that ownership of the IKG must first be resolved. Is it the company that owns the container holding the grease? Is it the restaurant? Or is it the newly contracted service company? What about unresponsive grease collectors? What does one do with those containers? It was decided that CDFA would examine how other states handle the situation and report back.

SanGregorio reported that an audit of the state’s new manifest system for IKG that went into effect April 1, 2013, showed very poor documentation compliance rates and much confusion over the system. It was decided that another set of training sessions needs to take place over the next several months before CDFA starts enforcement February 1, 2014. Other outreach and educational sessions on the IKG program performed by CDFA over the past six months focused on the department’s meat, poultry, and egg safety inspection staff in Southern California, the Orange County District Attorney’s office, and a mass mailing of a flyer explaining the program to law enforcement agencies throughout the state.

At the end of the meeting, RIAB members asked CDFA staff to encourage the agriculture secretary’s office to issue a press release touting the good work the department has done toward combating grease theft.

December 2013 RENDER | back