More than 3,200 tonnes of the ‘gutter oil’ were seized and 13 ‘black den’ underground workshops across four provinces were shut down during the 21 March 2012 operation, according to a statement issued by the Chinese Ministry of Public Security.
‘Gutter oil’ is traditionally made by reprocessing used oil before it is resold as cooking oil.
However, the new type was made using meat past its sell-by-date and even rotten animal fat and internal organs, according to the government statement.
The operation comes less than a month after quality control company AsiaInspection highlighted the need for increased government funding to end the negative “Made in China” food safety stigma.
Waste oil network “destroyed”
“On 21 March, to ensure a clean sweep and destroy the large criminal waste oil networks, the Ministry of Public Security and the concentrated actions of public security organisations in the Zhejiang, Anhui, Shanghai, Jiangsu, Chongqing, Shandong provinces captured all the main suspects,” said the translated Ministry of Public Security statement.
The statement added that under the operation “all aspects of the large criminal inter-provincial waste oil network were destroyed including 13 waste oil refining ‘Black Factory’ black dens.”
More than 100 criminal suspects were arrested, and more than 3,200 tonnes of the waste oil were seized during the operation, said the ministry.
The investigation followed several reports from members of the public who suspected waste oil was being refined.
City, county and provincial security officials in Zhejiang spent nearly five months painstakingly investigating the claims, before the waste oil processors were identified.
The gang, led by an individual called Li Weijian, sold the semi-finished ‘gutter oil’ to refineries in Anhui, Shanghai, Jiangsu and Chongqing. Once refined, the oil was then sold to restaurants.
According to the ministry statement, Li’s gang earned around 10m Yuan between January 2011 and November 2011– the equivalent of more than $1.5m.
The government statement added that “waste oil crimes have been effectively curbed, but at present, China has not yet formed unified waste oil-specific collection, storage, transportation, processing regulations.”
It added that “there will always be some unscrupulous elements and even some profit-driven oil companies that at the expense of people’s health, utterly devoid of conscience, will continue to carry out the criminal production and sale of waste oil.”
Earlier this year, quality control company AsiaInspection highlighted the need for increased food safety funding and legislation if the country is to remove the negative “Made in China” food safety stigma it has been tarnished with.
Food safety scandals are a regular occurrence in China – a country where, according to AsiaInspection, 48% of people do not trust domestically produced food.
“While the rest of the world’s population remains quite sceptical about ‘Made in China’ food, it may be among the Chinese themselves that this scepticism is strongest,” said AsiaInspection CEO Sebastian Breteau.