Employees with the local industry and commerce bureau crack down on a factory that was illegally recycling gutter oil to kitchen oil in Langzhong, Sichuan Province. Photo: CFP
Chinese authorities said criminals involved in the production and sale of "gutter oil" could be sentenced to death.
The Ministry of Public Security (MPS), the Supreme People's Court and the Supreme People's Procuratorate jointly released a notice which detailed for the first time seven charges and sentencing guidelines for related crimes aimed at preventing tainted cooking oil from ending up on household dinner tables, according to a report released on the MPS website on Friday.
Gutter oil refers to commercially sold cooking oil that has been made from food waste. These products could be toxic and cause serious diseases, including gastric cancer and intestinal cancer, according to experts.
Those who use "gutter oil" to produce cooking oil and sell them as well as other derivative products could be sentenced to death depending on the circumstances of the crime, the MPS report said.
Sellers who were unaware their products were made from gutter oil but became suspicious of their source and continued to sell them could receive life sentences.
Criminals should be convicted after the circumstances of the crime and harm done to society have been fully taken into consideration.
Since last August, 135 gutter oil crime cases were solved and nearly 800 criminals were caught across the country. More than 100 underground factories producing the gutter oil were smashed by police, according to figures from the MPS.
Those cases have now gone to trial and the latest document aims to provide a legal code for the process, the MPS website said. Meanwhile, police authorities stressed that the lack of unified detecting standards for gutter oil is currently the biggest obstacle to conducting further work.
On December 13, the Ministry of Health publicly called for detecting methods to distinguish gutter oil from normal cooking oil.
However, by the end of last year, no effective solutions had been found, ministry spokesman Deng Haihua told the Beijing News in December.
"Besides the detecting methods, I think government departments strengthening cooperation and supervision over the oil production chain at all times is key to curbing the spread of gutter oil," Li Shuguang, a professor of public health at Fudan University, told the Global Times.