Gutter oil, or cooking oil repurposed from kitchen refuse, is so toxic that manufacturing and selling it are crimes punishable by death in China.
Last month, state media reported pharmaceutical companies had been called upon to investigate their suppliers following claims that some companies had used gutter oil in the manufacturing process for antibiotics.
One of these companies, Joincare Biotechnological Co. Ltd., reportedly purchased more than 16,000 tons of recycled oil.
Dozens of other companies have reportedly been implicated in the scandal.
Since the gutter oil scandal broke, 58 traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) manufacturers in Haozhou (Anhui Province), a city widely regarded as the “capital of Chinese medicine,” were placed under investigation for suspected overuse of artificial coloring.
Fifteen of the Haozhou companies were ordered to undergo major restructuring, and eight were instructed to suspend operations.
In yet another safety scandal, major companies — Shandong Xinhua Pharmaceutical, Kelun Pharmaceutical, Grandpharma Co. Ltd, and several others — were linked to bronchitis medication that caused life-threatening allergic reactions in some patients.
Sources: Caijing Net (财经网), Southern Weekend (南方周末)
Benjamin Kessler is a contributing editor of the FCPA Blog and the editor of the China Compliance Digest.