China shocked by cooking oil contamination scandal

Image source, Getty Images

  • Author, Joao da Silva
  • Role, Business reporter

The Chinese government has said it is launching an investigation into allegations that fuel tankers have been used to transport cooking oil laced with toxic chemicals without properly cleaning the oil between loads.

The controversy spread online as users on social media expressed concerns about possible food contamination.

According to state-run Beijing News, tankers used to transport fuel were found carrying food products such as cooking oil and syrup and had not been properly disinfected.

According to a driver quoted by the newspaper, the practice of transporting cooking oil in contaminated fuel trucks was so widespread that it was considered an “open secret” in the industry.

This case is yet another blow to public confidence in the Chinese government’s ability to enforce food safety standards.

The controversy has been the top trending topic on Chinese social media in recent days.

Tens of thousands of posts about the scandal have been posted on Weibo, the national equivalent of X and formerly known as Twitter, and have been viewed millions of times.

“Food safety is the most important thing,” read one comment that was liked more than 8,000 times.

Another comment read: “As an ordinary person, just surviving in this world is an amazing thing in itself.”

Many compared it to the 2008 Sanlu milk scandal, in which some 300,000 children fell ill and at least six died after drinking powdered milk contaminated with high levels of the industrial chemical melamine.

“This is much worse than the Sanlu scandal, it cannot be solved with money alone. [a] “, said one user.

In China, tankers are not limited to a certain type of goods. In theory, they can also carry food products right after transporting coal-based oil.

The claims involve several major Chinese companies, including a subsidiary of state-owned Sinograin and the Hopefull Grain and Oil Group.

Sinograin has indicated that it is investigating whether food safety regulations are being properly observed.

The company has also said it will immediately stop using trucks that violate the rules.

A representative of Hopefull Grain told the government-run Global Times newspaper that the company was conducting a “thorough self-inspection”.

The Chinese government has said food safety officials will investigate the allegations.

They have promised to punish all companies and individuals involved in wrongdoing.

They have also promised to immediately publish the findings of their research.

“Illegal enterprises and those responsible will be severely punished in accordance with the law and will not be tolerated,” state broadcaster CCTV said.

At the local level, the provincial governments of Hebei and Tianjin have indicated that they are also investigating the issue.

Additional reporting by Fan Wang

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