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    How Cooking Oil Became a Red-Hot Food Safety Issue in China

    Chinese authorities start investigating revelations that companies are transporting fuel and cooking oil in the same trucks.
    Jul 10, 2024#food

    Chinese authorities have started investigating revelations that logistics companies have been transporting fuel and cooking oil in the same trucks — an illegal practice that experts say could cause a series of health risks.

    The Food Safety Office of the State Council announced on Tuesday that it had set up a cross-departmental task force to investigate the issue. “Those responsible will be severely punished according to the law, with no leniency,” the office said in a statement.

    The scandal emerged after an investigation by the domestic media outlet Beijing News, published on July 2, which tracked the movements of multiple oil tankers in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin and neighboring Hebei province.

    Reporters found that the trucks were unloading fuel chemicals and then proceeding directly to cooking oil facilities to take on new loads without undergoing a mandatory cleaning process.

    The cost-cutting measure likely led to cooking oil from two major Chinese producers — Hopefull Grain and Oil Group and China Grain Reserves Oil and Fat, a subsidiary of state conglomerate Sinograin — being contaminated, experts said.

    “The residue will inevitably contaminate the edible oil,” Zhu Yi, an associate professor from China Agricultural University, told Beijing News, adding that coal-derived fuel chemicals are toxic and could cause severe health issues if consumed in large quantities.

    The report has received a lot of attention, with many users online calling for stricter regulation and for those responsible to face severe punishment.

    On July 6, Sinograin announced via the microblogging platform Weibo that it had ordered its subsidiary in Tianjin to conduct an investigation within hours of the Beijing News story being published. On July 5, it also launched in-depth inspections across the entire company.

    “If any transportation units and vehicles are found to be violating regulations during the inspection, the company will immediately terminate our cooperation with them and add them to our service procurement blacklist,” the company said.

    The other company implicated in the scandal — Hopefull Grain and Oil Group — has yet to release an official statement on the scandal.

    The scandal has even led a number of other Chinese cooking oil producers to announce inspections of their supply chains in an attempt to reassure consumers, despite not being mentioned in the original exposé.

    Shandong Luhua Group Corporation issued a statement on Tuesday affirming that the company conducts rigorous food safety checks across its entire supply chain and uses its own dedicated tankers to transport its cooking oil.

    Yihai Kerry, another major cooking oil manufacturer, announced on the same day that it had conducted an inspection of its logistics operations and found no safety violations.

    The Beijing News investigation sparked particular public concern because it found evidence that the dual use of trucks was a widespread issue, which arose due to cutthroat competition in the logistics industry.

    Truck drivers and logistics companies had been routinely failing to clean trucks between trips, as it allowed them to save 300-900 yuan ($40-124) per journey on cleaning fees, the report said. The practice had been allowed to continue for years due to lax supervision on the part of the cooking oil manufacturers.

    “The oil manufacturers don’t really supervise us, and the purchasing companies are not aware of the situation, allowing transportation companies to take advantage of this loophole,” a truck driver told the Beijing News.

    Chinese food safety regulations stipulate that containers for transporting food should be “safe, non-toxic, and clean,” and that food should not be transported together with toxic items.

    National standards for the bulk transportation of edible vegetable oils also specify that containers should be carefully inspected to ensure that they are clean, dry, and specially designed for transporting edible oil.

    Though these standards are not legally binding, companies are expected to follow them, Wang Xingguo, a food science professor at Jiangnan University, told Beijing News.

    Hopefull and Sinograin produce many of China’s most popular cooking oil brands, including Jinding, Huifu, and Jinhuifu. As of Wednesday, these products are unavailable via the companies’ stores on e-commerce platforms Taobao and

    (Header image: VCG)