Cooking oil stampede prompts a sales ban

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 14 November, 2007, 12:00am

Beijing has banned limited-period promotions and sales in retail outlets to avoid a repeat of last Saturday's fatal stampede at a supermarket in Chongqing caused by shoppers scrambling to snap up discounted cooking oil.

Critics have suggested the Carrefour stampede, in which three people were killed and more than 30 injured, was largely due to rising inflation. Prices for staples such as cooking oil have risen by more than 30 per cent this year.

The new restriction was carried in an emergency circular issued by the Ministry of Commerce on Monday. The ministry also called on local authorities to thoroughly inspect the way retailers increase their sales with promotions.

It also demanded supermarkets, stores and warehouse owners carry out inspections and restoration work to ensure they met safety standards.

Carrefour, a popular supermarket chain on the mainland, had offered a 22 per cent discount on 5-litre cans of cooking oil on Saturday, resulting in chaos.

Yesterday, an employee at the company's Shanghai headquarters said a senior management team had flown to Chongqing to handle the matter but she declined to give more details.

An official in the publicity department of the Shapingba district government office confirmed the store's senior management had met the district government.

'We're still investigating this incident and no conclusion has been reached,' said the official, surnamed Li.

Local media reported that compensation for the families of the dead and injured had not been resolved.

The adverse impact of rising inflation on mainlanders, especially those from low-income families, has become one of Beijing's thorniest issues.

On Monday, Premier Wen Jiabao pledged in a visit to low-income families in Beijing to increase food production as part of efforts to lower prices.