It is a gourmet recipe for an indictment: take chicken anus, duck feathers and fox hair. Process it into counterfeit cooking oil. Distribute widely.
Even in China, frequently racked by food safety scandals, this has been a bad week. On Wednesday, a court in Jiangsu Province sentenced 16 men to prison for processing and selling 4,536 tonnes of recycled oil made from a melange of discarded animal parts.
However, the stomach-
churning case was far from unique: That same day, 43 defendants were convicted in three other food safety cases in the province, mostly for selling meat products made from animal waste.
Three days prior, more than 30 passengers on an Air China jet ran for the toilets after eating expired beef pastries. And on Friday, an inquiry found that almost all of the beef jerky in Fujian Province is actually chemically treated pork.
Chinese consumers have grown used to reports of fake eggs, poisonous baby milk, exploding watermelons and glow-in-the-dark pork, a result of rampant profit-seeking and lax regulation in the food industry.
In May, a gang in Zhejiang Province was prosecuted for passing off rat, mink and fox meat as mutton; the same month, authorities caught a company in Hunan Province making counterfeit jellyfish slices out of calcium chloride and sodium benzoate.
On Wednesday, a court in Jiangsu Province convicted 16 men from a local company, Kangrun, of illegally processing and selling poisonous cooking oil to 117 businesses in 2011 and last year, netting 600 million yuan (US$98 million).
Wang Chengkui, the firm’s legal representative, was sentenced to death; his codefendants face up to 15 years in prison.
“The Kangrun company can make ‘edible oil’ out of chicken feather oil, duck feather oil, pig hair oil, even fox hair oil,” Xinhua news agency said.
The company also used “discarded inedible materials such as skins and buttocks of chickens and ducks as well as pig offal,” it added.
Three days before that verdict, more than 30 passengers on an Air China flight from Xinjiang to Beijing fell ill after eating expired beef-filled snacks.
Many had diarrhea; some vomited. China Air refused to acknowledge the issue until passenger accounts went viral online, then attributed the incident to a packaging mix up.
On Friday, a reporter in Fujian revealed that most of the province’s beef jerky is pork, processed with beef extract and illegal chemicals.
“Almost all of the beef jerky on the market in Fujian is fake,” local food company manager Yao Yuancheng said.
Pork-based beef jerky costs US$7.66 a kilogram to produce, he said; real jerky costs three times as much.
It takes a grand irony to get Chinese Web-users riled, but they were treated to an easy target last weekend, when Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) confronted New Zealand Prime Minister John Key about his country’s food safety record.
The catalyst was Fonterra, a New Zealand firm that supplies 90 percent of China’s milk-powder imports, recalling its products last month after a botulism scare.
“First, take care of our own food safety problems,” one user wrote. “Then talk.”