The Chinese are cracking down on ‘gutter oiling’ – cooking with oils and animal fatbergs scooped from the sewer – in the wake of the deadly coronavirus outbreak.
Food handling and hygiene practices are now under increased scrutiny, including a renewed crackdown on the stomach-churning practice during the Chinese New Year and spring festival period.
The death penalty and hefty jail sentences await those convicted of the rampant food practice, which comes with a raft of vile side effects including adnominal sickness and diarrhoea.
South China Morning Post report The Supreme People’s Court will dole out death sentences to the worst offenders.
A notice read: “Courts must give full consideration to suspects’ malignancy, the amount of money involved and the harm done to the public and the market when ruling in gutter oil cases.
For those deserving death, death penalties must be resolutely given.”
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It comes at the same time as Coronavirus 2019-nCoV is said to have started in a live-food market, in central Wuhan, the epicentre of the outbreak where experts say tainted meat consumption is most likely cause.
Scientists believe that contact with live animals or the flesh of slaughtered animals was the original cause of killer respiratory condition – which has so far claimed over 550 lives.
Leading UK virologists from the University of Lancaster, Dr Emily Clayton and Dr Muhammad Munir, told Daily Star Online the coronavirus was likely spread between live animals and humans at a seafood market in the centre of Wuhan where food and livestock handling practices have been called into question.
“The market has now been closed down and the whole of Wuhan has been contained as an essential measure to prevent the spread of the virus,” they said.
“Like other coronaviruses, this novel coronavirus is zoonotic, meaning that the virus has originated in animals and spread from animals to humans.”
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Further DNA analysis has shown the novel coronavirus is likely to have originated from bats and spread to humans by another animal.
The virologists added: “Investigations found that bats were not being traded as meat in the seafood market where the outbreak stemmed from; therefore, another unknown animal intermediate has facilitated the transmission of the coronavirus from bats to humans.”
Although there is no direct link between gutter oil and the outbreak, the illegal practice of using tainted oil is a longstanding food safety concern in China, where the oil and animal trimmings are obtained from drains near restaurants and slaughterhouses before being reprocessed.
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Chinese media report gutter oil has been shown to be very toxic, with side effects including diarrhoea, abdominal pain and causing other serious health problems such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
But despite reports of heavy police penalties, it’s estimated 10% of cooking oil in the country is still made from the carcinogenic recycled waste.
In 2011, 32 people we arrested for producing tainted oil on an industrial scale with 100 tonnes of illicit oil seized from a makeshift plant, Chinese media report.
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In 2013 a man was given a life sentence for making and selling gutter oil.
In 2017 it was reported more than 10 people were arrested and jailed in Zhejiang province for using the recycled oil to make a hotpot after they were caught ladling waste fats from backstreet drains near restaurants and slaughterhouses.
They reprocessed the waste oil at small workshops in remote suburbs and sold it back to restaurants, complicit in the trade, for a low price, South China Morning Post reported.
The use of gutter oil is often common in Sichuan style dishes, where vast quantities of chilli oil are used.
It is also sometimes used to bulk out lard-products before being used in processed foods
As well the courts vowing to dole out the death penalty to the worst offenders, this year the Chinese have renewed national campaigns to stamp out the practice among restauranteurs and street-food vendors.
A recent circular from the Ministry of Public Security says police will zone in on crimes related to the collecting and selling of gutter oil.
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The document said restaurants and meat processors must collect and store kitchen and meat waste separately, and dispose of it properly.
Beijing will also strengthen supervision of slaughter houses, meat processors, edible oil producers and restaurants, the document said, and online sellers of fake edible oil will be punished.
Meanwhile in the UK BBC reported in the wake of the gutter oil scandal and as fears about the deadly coronavirus intensify, restaurants in London’s Chinatown are seeing a downturn.
“It’s a hard time,” Martin Ma, general manager at the Jinli restaurant in London, told the BBC.He told the BBC that confirmation of the first cases of the new coronavirus in the UK on Friday brought “immediate cancellations” with diners citing the virus as the reason.
This is the third of serious food-linked scandal to have occurred in China, alongside the contaminated baby milk powder scandal in 2008, which saw formula adulterated with melamine, killing six babies and hospitalising 54,000.
China National Centre for Food Assessment Risk has been contacted for comment.
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