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Hotpot restaurant scandal: Prison terms and fines for illegal recycling of cooking oil

By Liang Shuang | | Updated: 2023-12-13 20:47
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In a shocking case of food safety violations, an owner, manager, and chefs of a hotpot restaurant in Anhui province have been handed prison terms of up to 12 years and fined over 5 million yuan ($700,000) for the illicit recycling of waste cooking oil served to unsuspecting diners.

According to details revealed by the People's Court Daily last week, the Huainan Intermediate People's Court upheld the sentencing from a lower court, resulting in 13 individuals receiving prison sentences ranging from one to 12 years.

The verdict outlined that Ruchuan Beef Tripe Hotpot, operational since April 2017 in Huainan's Panji district, repeatedly used oil collected from leftover broths in subsequent meals. The restaurant's investor and chief manager, identified by the surnames Niu and Wang, collaborated with chefs, kitchen staff, and table managers to collect broth post-meal, filter out food scraps, and recycle the waste oil by adding it to the broth the following day from 2019 to 2021.

The court revealed that the restaurant had sold approximately 65,000 broths, amounting to 1.7 million yuan, until their illegal activities were uncovered in 2021.

The Panji district court found the individuals guilty of producing and selling unwholesome food, resulting in the sentencing of 13 people, including Niu and Wang. The Anhui Consumers Association also initiated a public interest civil lawsuit against the restaurant, seeking punitive compensation worth three times the revenue.

Supporting the association's stance, the Huainan Intermediate Court ordered the defendants to pay 5.12 million yuan in compensation, along with issuing a public apology. While it modified the sentences for four defendants who played accessory roles, the court upheld the penalties for the main culprits, including Niu and Wang.

This case is not isolated, as similar instances of hotpot restaurants illegally using waste cooking oil have been reported. In Chengdu, Sichuan province, a manager and two chefs faced prison terms ranging from five to 10 years, coupled with a substantial fine of 13.7 million yuan, equivalent to 10 times their revenue in a comparable violation.

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