screengrab from video - shows a woman scooping a sloppy substance from a sewer

RFA video of China’s “gutter” oil goes viral

This week, Radio Free Asia’s video exposé on China’s black market production of “gutter” oil went viral on social media and websites around the world.

Topping 850,000 views on YouTube, the investigative piece was the focus of an entry on Washington Post’s WorldView blog, which then in turn led to it being picked up on numerous news sites and blogs, including Atlantic and Mediaite.

The video shows the origin of recycled oil, following its harvesting from sewers in Shenzhen in the form of solid grease before being processed at a makeshift site. The substance, laden with toxic byproducts, is then sold to street food vendors, restaurants, and hotels who use it for cooking.

RFA’s video raises questions about China’s success in enforcing reforms enacted by the government to safeguard food quality for its citizens. The video, part of a series on China food safety issues titled “Poisoned at the Source,” depicts this entire process from beginning to end, interviewing the producers and users of gutter oil.