China investigates after media report shows same trucks carrying edible oil and a form of coal

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BANGKOK (AP) — Chinese authorities said they are investigating concerns about the food safety of cooking oils after an investigative report by local media revealed that tankers carrying soybean oil from a major state-owned company were also being used to transport a form of coal.

The report by Beijing News, a state-backed broadcaster known for its original reporting, found that it was an “open secret” among truck drivers that the tankers were not cleaned between trips carrying edible oils and chemicals.

Among the trucks the driver was following were products from Sinograin, a large state-owned enterprise, and China Energy Investment Corporation, one of the national companies directly supervised by the government.

China’s State Council said Tuesday it had formed an investigation group with officials from the Food Safety Commission, the Public Safety Bureau and other ministries. “Companies that violate the rules and relevant responsible persons will be severely punished according to law,” the announcement said, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

The Beijing News investigation followed a tanker from the northwestern region of Ningxia, which was carrying a type of hydrocarbon that is converted into liquid fuel. From Ningxia, the tanker sailed to northern Tianjin and then filled up with Sinograin soybean oil without stopping to clean.

According to an expert quoted in the Beijing News article, the hydrocarbon products contain ingredients that could lead to poisoning.

China Grain Reserves Group, the official name of Sinograin, said in a statement on Saturday that it was conducting an audit following the media allegations.

The investigation also tracked other trucks transporting hydrocarbons from a factory belonging to the China Energy Investment Corporation, which then went on to source edible oils from other companies after unloading its first shipment.

The story, which was published last Tuesday, has since received widespread national attention because it involved major state-owned companies.

In 2008, many families switched to buying imported infant formula after it was discovered that a brand called Sanlu contained melamine in its formula, a chemical that caused kidney damage and other harm. The contaminated formula killed six babies.


Aniruddha Ghosal, AP’s Asia Business Climate Reporter, contributed to this report.

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