China investigating after media report finds same trucks transport edible oil and a form of coal

BANGKOK — China’s authorities said they were investigating food safety concerns in cooking oils after an investigative report from local media revealed that tankers carrying soybean oil from a major state-owned company were also used to carry a form of coal.

The report from Beijing News, a state-backed outlet known for original reporting, found that it was an “open secret” among truck drivers that the tankers did not get cleaned in between their stints carrying edible oils and the chemicals.

Among the trucks the driver followed, the vehicles carried products from Sinograin, a major state-owned corporation, as well as China Energy Investment Corporation, one of the national-level companies directly overseen by the government.

China’s State Council said Tuesday it was forming an investigation group with officials from the Food Safety Commission, the Public Safety Bureau and other ministries. “Enterprises in violation and relevant responsible persons will be severely punished according to law,” the announcement said, according to state broadcaster CCTV.

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

The hydrocarbon products contain components that may lead to poisoning, said one expert quoted in the Beijing News story.

China Grain Reserves Group, Sinograin’s formal name, said in a statement Saturday that it was conducting an audit after the media allegations.

The investigation also followed other trucks that emerged carrying hydrocarbons from a plant belonging to the China Energy Investment Corporation, which then went on to get edible oils from other companies after they unloaded their first cargo.

The story, published last Tuesday, has since received widespread national attention as major state-owned corporations were implicated.

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


AP Asia business climate reporter Aniruddha Ghosal contributed to this report.

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