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32 held in crackdown on nation's swill oil scandal

(Shanghai Daily)

08:35, September 14, 2011

Police have detained 32 people for allegedly making and selling cooking oil originally dredged from gutters, China's Ministry of Public Security announced yesterday.

A network covering the production, distribution and sale of swill oil - old cooking oil scooped out of restaurant drains and processed into edible oil - had been operating in 14 provinces including Zhejiang, Shandong and Henan, the ministry said on its website.

Six underground factories, including one that claimed to be turning kitchen oil into fuel, were closed and more than 100 tons of swill oil confiscated, police said.

Recycled oil can contain carcinogens and traces of aflatoxin, a potentially deadly mold.

"Not only did we destroy a criminal chain that was illegally turning gutter oil into food oil, we also unveiled the greed of the criminals and pulled back the curtain on the immoral acts of those producing this poisonous and harmful food oil," the ministry's statement said.

It didn't specify what charges the 32 people in detention would face.

A crackdown campaign began four months ago when police found a factory in Zhejiang Province processing cooking oil and swill collected from restaurants, and then tracked down a company in east China's Shandong Province which was buying the oil at between 5,000 yuan (US$781) and 6,000 yuan a ton.

The Jinan Gelin Biology Company, police said, would resell the oil to wholesale markets and charge 2,000 to 3,000 yuan more after further processing or refining.

The company started up in 2009 to manufacture biodiesel and imported their raw material from Zhejiang and Sichuan provinces. It was able to process more than 10 tons of swill oil a day, and most of its clients were food and oil wholesale markets, police said.

However, Liu Liguo, Gelin's owner, denied he was involved in the illegal business, China National Radio reported.

He said his clients wouldn't tell him how they would be using the swill oil, "It's their commercial secret," he told CNR.

"How could I tell if the powerful supervision authorities had not found out what they did with the swill oil," Liu was quoted as saying.

Yuan Yi, another suspect, was said to be responsible for the sale of oil at a wholesale market in central China's Henan Province, a major client of Gelin's.

She told CNR that she imported the oil from Liu and then sold it to nearby towns and villages after adding 500 yuan a ton, or she would repack and label the oil under famous brand names. "I did not realize it would result in such severe consequences. It's just one of the products I managed," Yuan said.

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