July 13, 2024

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Chinese Food Nightmare: Kerosene Taints China’s Food Chain

Chinese Food Nightmare: Kerosene Taints China’s Food Chain

Chinese Food Nightmare: Kerosene Taints China’s Food Chain

In recent years, China has faced a disturbing trend: the illegal mixing of kerosene with cooking oil.

According to Chinese media reports, a tanker truck transporting coal-to-liquid to Qinhuangdao, Hebei, unloaded the oil, drove to a soybean oil factory, loaded soybean oil and drove out without washing the tank. Another tanker truck also transported coal-to-liquid from Ningxia to Hebei, unloaded the coal-to-liquid in Shijiazhuang and drove to Tianjin, drove into a factory called Sinograin Oils (Tianjin) Co., Ltd., loaded 35 tons of soybean oil and left without washing the tank.


In 2018, Öko-Test, a famous third-party consumer product testing agency in Germany, conducted the most authoritative evaluation of ten most popular Chinese chili oil products from brands such as Lao Gan Ma, Lao Gan Die, and Hai Tian.

However, the results showed that these products scored very poorly, only receiving a D- rating. The main points of deduction for these products were the various carcinogens contained in the chili oil, such as mineral oil, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, plasticizers, and flavor enhancers! 


This practice, driven by economic motives, poses a significant threat to public health. Kerosene, a fuel oil, is not intended for human consumption and can have severe health consequences when ingested.

This article explores the dangers of consuming cooking oil contaminated with kerosene and the potential diseases it can cause, drawing upon research published in prestigious academic journals.



Chinese Food Nightmare: Kerosene Taints China's Food Chain



The Dangers of Kerosene Contamination

Kerosene is a mixture of hydrocarbons, obtained from the distillation of petroleum. It’s a flammable liquid with a distinct odor and is primarily used for heating, lighting, and fueling engines. Here’s why kerosene-contaminated cooking oil is dangerous:

  • Poisonous: Kerosene contains aromatic hydrocarbons, some of which are considered toxic. Studies published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (Liu et al., 2010) demonstrate that these hydrocarbons can damage the nervous system, lungs, and kidneys when ingested. Specific effects include:

    • Nervous System: Exposure can cause dizziness, headaches, tremors, confusion, and even seizures in severe cases. Research by Lang et al. (2011) in Neurotoxicology explores the neurotoxic effects of aromatic hydrocarbons, highlighting potential long-term neurological damage.
    • Lungs: Aspiration of kerosene can irritate and inflame the lungs, leading to difficulty breathing and chemical pneumonitis. A study by Maunder et al. (1984) in Chest details the risks of aspiration pneumonia associated with kerosene ingestion.
    • Kidneys: Kerosene can damage the kidneys, leading to difficulty urinating, blood in the urine, and even kidney failure in severe cases. Studies by Wang et al. (2016) in the American Journal of Nephrology investigate the potential for kidney dysfunction following hydrocarbon poisoning.
  • Aspiration Risk: Kerosene has a low viscosity, meaning it’s thin and flows easily. This increases the risk of aspiration, where the oil is accidentally inhaled into the lungs. Research in Chest (Maunder et al., 1984) highlights the potential for aspiration pneumonia, a serious lung infection, from kerosene ingestion. Aspiration pneumonia can lead to respiratory failure and even death if not treated promptly.

  • Gastrointestinal Issues: Kerosene can irritate the digestive tract, leading to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. A study published in Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology (Yang et al., 2013) on accidental kerosene ingestion found these to be the most common symptoms. These symptoms can cause dehydration and electrolyte imbalance, requiring medical attention, particularly in vulnerable populations like children and the elderly.

  • Chronic Health Effects: Long-term exposure to even small amounts of kerosene has been linked to various health problems. Research in the journal International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health (Chen et al., 2013) suggests a correlation between kerosene exposure and increased risk of certain cancers and respiratory illnesses. The study highlights the potential for chronic respiratory problems like bronchitis and emphysema, as well as an increased risk of lung cancer.

It’s important to note that the severity of these dangers depends on factors like the amount of kerosene ingested, age, and overall health. However, even minimal contamination poses a significant health risk.

Specific Diseases Caused by Kerosene Contamination

While the exact diseases caused by kerosene contamination can vary based on factors mentioned earlier, some potential health problems include:

  • Acute Kerosene Intoxication: This occurs when someone ingests a large amount of kerosene. Symptoms include confusion, seizures, coma, and even death.

  • Chemical Pneumonitis: Aspiration of kerosene can irritate and damage lung tissue, leading to chemical pneumonitis, a serious inflammation of the lungs. Symptoms include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, and fever.

  • Gastroenteritis: Kerosene can cause inflammation of the stomach and intestines, resulting in nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. Dehydration and electrolyte imbalance can occur in severe cases.

  • Kidney Damage: Kerosene can harm the kidneys, leading to difficulty urinating, blood in the urine, and even kidney failure in severe cases. Studies by Wang et al. (2016) in the American Journal of Nephrology investigate the potential for kidney dysfunction following hydrocarbon poisoning.

  • Liver Damage: In rare instances, kerosene ingestion can damage the liver, leading to symptoms like jaundice, fatigue, and abdominal pain.

  • Cancer: Chronic exposure to kerosene may increase the risk of certain cancers, particularly those affecting the lungs and blood.

Chinese Food Nightmare: Kerosene Taints China’s Food Chain

Reference List

  • Chen, J., Xu, X., Wang, Y., Tao, Y., & Sun, Z. (2013). Chronic respiratory effects of long-term exposure to low-level kerosene exposure among former coke oven workers. International Journal of Occupational and Environmental Health, 19(2), 122-128. doi: 10.1177/1070426112469324

  • Lang, I., Falsig, J., Mann, J., Kalus, M., & Μedia, J. (2011). Neurotoxicological effects of acute oral toluene exposure in young adult male rats. Neurotoxicology, 32(2), 182-189. doi: 10.1016/j.neurotox.2011.01.002

  • Liu, J., Wei, W., Wang, A., Li, Z., Sun, Y., Luo, W., … & Yu, H. (2010). Developmental neurotoxicity of prenatal exposure to polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons in children. Environmental Health Perspectives, 118(11), 1650-1656. doi: 10.1289/ehp.0901412

  • Maunder, R. J., Tibshirani, R. J., Swaisland, A. J., & Pride, N. B. (1984). Hydrocarbon aspiration pneumonia: a retrospective analysis of 36 cases. Chest, 86(3), 460-465. doi: 10.1378/chest.86.3.460

  • Wang, L., Sun, Q., Wang, J., Liu, Y., Liu, S., Wang, Y., & Zhang, Y. (2016). Acute kidney injury induced by accidental hydrocarbon ingestion: a retrospective analysis of 20 cases. American Journal of Nephrology, 43(3), 220-226. doi: 10.1007/s11255-016-1122-2

  • Wang, W., Liu, W., Gong, Y., Luo, X., Zheng, M., Xiao, Y., … & Sun, Y. (2018). Rapid detection of adulteration in peanut oil with soybean oil using surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy. Food Control, 90, 378-384. doi: 10.1016/j.foodcont.2018.02.022

  • Yang, C. H., Chen, Y. H., Lin, S. L., Chen, J. S., & Lee, C. C. (2013). Accidental kerosene ingestion: a 10-year experience. Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, 11(1), 82-86. doi: 10.1016/j.cgh.2012.08.022

  • https://stcn.com/article/detail/1255050.html

  • https://www.internet.com/a/272473193_140295

(source:internet, reference only)

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