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China's anti-graft body orders mooncakes off the menu
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Sept 04, 2013

China trial opens over $10 million cooking oil scam
Beijing (AFP) Sept 03, 2013 - A total of 16 people have gone on trial in China accused of a $10 million scam which saw waste from animal parts used to make cooking oil, state media reported Tuesday.

The suspects allegedly used waste oil from the fat of chickens, ducks, pigs, cattle and foxes, as well as fox fur, chicken feathers, and "leftover pieces of offal and poultry", the China Daily said.

It is the latest case to highlight poor food safety standards in China, a growing source of anger for many.

The China Daily said it was the biggest case since the country streamlined its laws to target such practices in May, and quoted food safety experts saying the oil could destroy the digestive tract.

"The oil was sold to more than 100 food enterprises in five provinces and municipalities for about 60 million yuan ($9.8million)," the paper said.

The group went on trial Monday in Lianyungang, in the eastern province of Jiangsu, it added.

Health authorities in China last year launched a crackdown on "gutter oil", which normally refers to cooking oil illegally made by reprocessing waste oil or by dredging up leftovers from restaurants and marketing it as new.

More than 100 people were arrested and 20 imprisoned -- two of them for life -- as part of the campaign.

Poor food safety standards are a major concern in China, particularly among the less affluent who cannot buy imported products.

China has banned officials from buying mooncakes with public funds during an upcoming holiday, as the Communist leadership promotes its crackdown on corruption.

The pastry, a traditional food during the Mid-Autumn Festival which this year falls on September 19, has a sweet, heavy filling often made from lotus seed paste or red beans.

The cakes themselves are relatively cheap, around 100 yuan ($16) for eight. But in a culture where personal connections are often the key to getting business done, Chinese holidays -- National Day follows soon afterwards -- are often a chance for networking and sometimes for corruption.

The boxes in which mooncakes come have been used as a vehicle for payoffs. Sometimes they have even been made of gold and contain silver chopsticks, according to previous Chinese media reports.

"Sending mooncakes and other items as gifts purchased with public funds during the festivals is strictly prohibited," the Communist Party's Central Commission for Discipline Inspection said in a statement.

Officials are also banned from spending public funds on holidays, gym visits or entertainment activities, the anti-graft body said, and government agencies must not hand out excessive bonuses or benefits.

The measures are in response to recent remarks by President Xi Jinping that officials' behaviour during major festivals and holidays was "a significant test of their working style", the statement said.

Authorities will "punish every violation once it is detected, seriously hold those responsible or in charge accountable, and publicise typical cases to the public", it added.

"(We) must resolutely put an end to the malpractices during the two holidays."

China's new leadership has mounted a high-profile anti-corruption drive since Xi took over as party chief, warning that corruption could destroy the party and threatening to expose high-ranking officials, or "tigers", along with low-level "flies".

Some senior figures have been ensnared -- among them Jiang Jiemin, who oversaw state-owned firms, and Liu Tienan, once a deputy director of the influential National Development and Reform Commission.


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